Tagged "Xbox"

Mar 25
By Jake In Features No Comments

Games Asylum is 15 years old this weekend, which means we can finally watch Die Hard. Yippee ki-yay indeed, melon farmers.

Much has changed since 2001, so to wish ourselves a very bloody happy birthday, here are eight things that didn’t exist 15 years ago when we started this nonsense.

1. Motion control

The first big banana when it comes to flapping around in front of your TV was Sony’s EyeToy, released for the PlayStation 2 in 2003 – and in Europe first. That did pretty well, and plenty of people who don’t play games were convinced that cleaning virtual suds off their TV screen is a fun thing to do. Elaborate cable-based system Gametrak came shortly after, and did little to advance the cause.

Gametrak: Dark Wind Gametrak: Real World Golf

In 2006, Nintendo changed everything with the Wii. Briefly. It won the heck out of the generational ‘battle’ with the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, though a good proportion of 100 million plus owners might now struggle to remember anything beyond Wii Tennis. But you’ll still find it in the odd back room of a pub, a reminder that it really did break new ground.

That ground pretty quickly sealed back up though. The Wii U didn’t exactly pick up where its predecessor left off, PlayStation Move had little impact on PlayStation 3 or 4, and Kinect did little on Xbox 360 or One, despite a good start on the former and being initially bundled with the latter – a decision that was unwelcome, unsuccessful and short-lived.

So has motion control both risen and entirely fallen away again in the 15 years we’ve been going? Maybe it was just a fad, but perhaps virtual reality will see its resurgence: PlayStation VR may breathe new life into those Move controllers, Vive comes with motion controllers, and Oculus will have Touch.

PlayStation VR

But that depends on VR actually taking off. We’ll see.

2. Smartphones

Not that most people would even bother with that term now – they’re so ubiquitous, a smartphone’s just a phone these days. Not so in 2001, however. It was still all about Nokia back then, and not even the utterly ludicrous N-Gage – we were only treated to that in 2003. And forget your fancy iPhone, we didn’t have the first iPod until the autumn of 2001.

Perhaps we can lay some of the blame for the demise of motion control at the sleek feet of the smartphone. The Wii might have made gaming less frightening to a huge glut of population, but those touchable rectangles shovelled gaming straight into their pockets, and on a device they want regardless.

Apple really got it going, half accidentally, with the launch of the App Store in 2008, about a year after the first iPhone. That same year Android got going, and the rest is history – and the competition pretty much irrelevant.

3. Xbox

Microsoft are a Johnny Big Face in the console world now, but not a decade and a half ago. The Dreamcast still had a few games left in it; the PlayStation 2 was just a few months old, and a long way from becoming the best selling console of all time.

Though it didn’t exist, we knew the Xbox was coming. It had been announced a year earlier in 2000, and from that moment the fuss began about the hard drive, and whether it would just be a PC in a different box.

Xbox 2000 GDC

It launched in North America in late 2001, with Europe following in 2002. Probably best not to mention Japan.

And of course, it turned out that it wasn’t just a PC in a different box, and particularly with the launch of Xbox Live later in 2002, Microsoft did a lot to define what a modern console looks like.

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Nov 22
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

It’s easy to forget that there were four months between the American and European Xbox launches. US gamers gained their black beast on 15th November 2001, while we Europeans had to wait until 14th March 2002.


The wait wasn’t an entirely bad thing – a few more games were added to the line-up, and it also gave something of an advance warning for the launch day stinkers.

The Xbox certainly did have more than its fair share. As we’ve noted numerous times before, Microsoft wanted the original Xbox line-up to feature games from every single genre. The bad thing about this is that quality wasn’t really an issue.

Nightcaster was called in to fill the RPG shaped slot, and was so poorly received that Microsoft was quite happy to let Jaleco handle the sequel. How Nightcaster gain a sequel is another matter entirely.

Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee fared far better. If your memory needs a jog, it was originally due out on PlayStation only to then become an Xbox-exclusive. Although arguably an adventure game, Microsoft intended it be the console’s premier platformer. Abe may not have been as well known as Sonic or Mario, but did – and still does – hold some creditability.

Like Nightcaster, Microsoft was seemingly happy to let another publisher take control of the sequel – the much celebrated Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. EA, in that case. The interesting thing about this is that according to a press release issued in October 2000, Microsoft originally planned to publish four Oddworld games in total.


The Japanese launch featured another platformer – Nezmix, a game starring a Stuart Little-alike that showed off the Xbox’s ability to pull of fur effects and nothing more. Nezmix did eventually gain a US release under the name of Sneakers, where it was a Toys R Us exclusive. A sure sign of quality.

There was also Shrek, from TDK. This was another system exclusive that Microsoft used to show off the system’s visual prowess. Proving that looks will only get you so far, review scores were middling.

Fuzion Frenzy filled the slot of being the ‘family friendly party game’ – should such a genre actually exist – and simply seemed to have been developed to justify the Xbox’s four controller ports. It went on to gain a sequel on Xbox 360, developed not by British studio Blitz Games but rather well-established Japanese developer Hudson Soft. Incidentally, both of these studios are now defunct with Blitz closing their doors in September.


Halo: Combat Evolved, Dead or Alive 3 and Project Gotham Racing were of course the big three launch titles. Halo had been in development for quite some time before Microsoft picked it up as an exclusive, going from RTS, to third-person shooter to eventually the first-person shooter than went on to turn the genre completely upside down. EDGE’s 10/10 review was a significant boon for Microsoft, particularly when taking into consideration that at the time the magazine had given very few other games a perfect score. We also gave it a 10/10. And yes, we have been around for that long.

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May 21
By Jake In We've Got Issues No Comments

With the third Xbox being unveiled this evening, it seems like a good time to look back at how Microsoft approached launching the first – over a decade ago now.

The tagline ‘Play More’ is well-remembered, mainly thanks to the Champagne TV ad. The print campaign was just as unusual, but has been largely forgotten. Fear not: back issues of Edge have been dusted off, so let’s have a bloody good look.


There were a couple of pre-launch adverts in late 2001, quite different in tone from what was to come. The first, in the December issue (E104), promoted the Xbox Experience tour, and featured a nice bit of implied cartoon violence.

The second, in the Christmas issue (E105), was presumably intended to limit the damage the PlayStation 2 would do over the festive season. It attempted to convince readers that Christmas would only happen when the Xbox launched. It didn’t work. Microsoft 0, Jesus 1.


With the UK launch in March 2002, the February and March issues (E107 & E108) featured the launch campaign proper. Apologies for the following image.

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Atari Jaguar controller
Apr 12
By Jake In Retro 1 Comment

The humble video game controller has gone through a lot of changes over the years. Compare the NES pad to the Wii remote, and you could argue that it’s come full circle. But there have been plenty of evolutionary dead ends along the way. Here are five we left behind.

Original Xbox controller

Original Xbox controller

The original Xbox controller has been the victim of some pretty significant revisionism. Words like ‘abomination’ and ‘disaster’ are bandied around, but really, at the time, it was fine. Yes, it was the size of a dinner plate, but that was its only real crime.

But the fact remains: never again will a controller be so unnecessarily large.


The Gametrak Game System just tried to do a little too much, a little too soon. We’d had the EyeToy, but keen to improve the accuracy of motion control, Gametrak tethered your hands to a base unit via a couple of cables.

Gametrak: Dark Wind Gametrak: Real World Golf

It was released in the UK in October 2004 with fighting game Dark Winds, but it was Real World Golf in August 2005 that caught the public’s attention. Though a rather plain game, it was critically well-received, and peaked at #12 in the UK chart.

You can now get it for £1.

Real World Golf didn’t hit the US until April 2006, by which time everyone knew what Nintendo had up their sleeve. As Ars Technica wrote in their review: “it really shows what we have to look forward to once the Nintendo Wii with its novel controller is released.”

And with that, cables were consigned to video game history.

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Jan 25
By Matt Gander In Cache in the Attic 1 Comment

Owning a rare game is one thing; owning a sealed version of a rare game is quite another. But to own something that was never commercially available to the public? That’s taking collecting to the extreme.


Plenty of things only available to industry insiders have been sold on eBay recently. A good example is this prototype GBA cartridge containing an unreleased Capcom game – Rocket Dog – which was acquired by the seller from a liquidation asset auction. It ended up selling for $457.67 after 16 bids. The screenshot of the start-up screen informs that it was in development in 2002 at 3d6 Games, who bought Tetris Worlds to the GBA. They also worked on the better-than-you-may-expect Altered Beast: Guardian of the Realms.

A couple of consoles now. Firstly, a rental Atari Jaguar from Blockbusters that’s boxed in a padded briefcase. The seller claims it looks like new. We wonder if that’s because not many people took up the chance to rent it? As well as three loose cartridges it also comes with a Jaguar CD game (Dragon’s Lair) even though the auction doesn’t come with the toilet shaped add-on.


Secondly, and of slightly more interest, is this one of a kind Xbox launch package that contains amongst other things the first ever Xbox game to be submitted to Microsoft for certification. That game is Midway’s NHL Hitz, dated 28th June 2001. It’s curious to note that the Xbox didn’t launch in America until 15th November. The translucent green Xbox has Bill Gates’ signature underneath. The auction also contained a replica of the infamous prototype “chrome X” Xbox, plus a commemorative plaque given to all members of the Xbox launch team. This little collection comes from Howard Phillips, who worked at Nintendo for ten years – as senior editor at Nintendo Power – and then went onto spend another nine at Microsoft. The auction ended at $6,600 after six bids but the reserve wasn’t met.

Phillips listed a Nintendo Power lot at the same time, including the original version of the Howard and Nester comic. Likewise, it failed to sell.

Also failing to find a buyer was this bundle of SNES carts and a scarily authentic looking rifle light-gun that was originally used to train the US army. The two cartridges are the functionally named Moving Target Simulator and Multi-purpose Arcade Combat Simulator, each of which were developed by Sculptured Software. The seller notes that the light-gun is “incredibly accurate”. It’s almost certainly bound to cause a scare at the postal department if they chose to x-ray the package.

Here’s something slightly different to the above – a Skylanders Giant figure that was only handed out to Activision employees. Dubbed the ‘holiday 2012 edition’, it’s a gold version of Prism Break that has a layer of imitation snow on top. It ended up selling for a giant $620.00, attracting 18 bids.


Back to Blockbusters to finish us off for this month. At first glance this Pokemon Snap Station Blockbuster Kiosk would appear to be a Pokemon Snap dedicated demo pod. That’s not the case, however. After inserting either a Pokemon Snap or Pokemon Stadium cartridge into this device, Pokemon fans could then print off their favourite photos. The seller included a few rolls of paper, but at $3,000 it didn’t find a buyer. The auction didn’t include a copy of Pokemon Snap, but there was a ‘not for resale’ demo cart listed on eBay around the same time. Unlike a lot of auctions we’ve looked at here, this one did find a buyer – for $309.31.

If Blockbusters still offered unique services like this in their stores, perhaps they wouldn’t be in quite the mess that they’re currently in.

Aug 21
By Matt Gander In Retro No Comments

The philosophy of a video game corporation nowadays is that if a game doesn’t prove to be popular, then all support and everything to do with it should be dropped like a hot potato, and attention focused elsewhere.

This sort of thinking only started around ten years ago, when budgets for video games began to enter the millions. Or to be more precise, around the same time the Xbox arrived on the scene.

Even if Microsoft started work on a Super Smash Bros. clone we don’t think we’d see these faces again.


The Xbox’s launch line-up read like one giant checklist of genres to cover. Azurik: Rise of Perathia was to fill the adventure game hole and starred a blue-hued warrior out to collect elemental fragments, thus giving him the power to command wind, water, fire and earth. As launch games go it was a passable enough endeavour.

We’ve never noticed before how similar the character artwork is to that of Avatar. We can’t be the first to notice the similarities, surely?


Another launch game, this time designed to fill the role of being the Xbox’s launch-day RPG. Rather than play like Final Fantasy and the like, this had more in common with Gauntlet and other western RPGs.

Enemies were colour-coded – yellow enemies could only be defeated with lightning, and so forth. As a result, it was almost as if you were fighting toys which had escaped from a Monster in Your Pocket production line.

A sequel with co-op play was released but not published by Microsoft. Instead Majesco picked it up for a budget release.


Ah, Blinx. Is it all right for us to say that the character design held some appeal? He was a menace with a cheeky grin, but at the same time quite adorable looking. We also liked the fact that his eyes were Xbox green.

Quite what Microsoft were thinking getting Japanese developer Artoon to handle what was supposed to be the Xbox’s mascot is beyond us. We assume that it was because the studio had a lot of ex-Sega staff at the time, but even so their previous games had been less than great, including Pinobee for GBA and PSone and Ghost Vibration for PlayStation 2.

Reviews were mixed but it sold well enough to warrant a sequel, which was a lot less frustrating to play. Gamers, having gullibly fallen for the hype behind the first game, stayed away however and it soon found its way into the bargain bins.

Stubbs the Zombie

A lot of fuss was made around Stubbs the Zombie prior to release, due to being developed by an ex-Bungie co-founder. It also ran on the original Halo engine – something the developer/publisher was so proud about that they mentioned it on the front of the box.

Eddie Stubbs was a highly unlikely video game hero, and that’s no bad thing – he was a travelling salesman, shot dead by the father of his over protective girlfriend. Skip forward thirty years and Stubbs finds his eternal rest being disturbed by the creation of a new city on his resting place, and so sets off to eat the citizen’s brains.

Arriving in 2006, Stubbs the Zombie is often referred to as one of the Xbox’s last hurrahs.

Cooper Chance

Grabbed by the Ghoulies had a whiff of a rush job about it even though it was at one point in development for GameCube. The character design of the protagonist Cooper simply wasn’t up to Rare’s previous standards, nothing more than a spiky-haired teenager with bad taste in clothing. It has even been reported that Rare came up with the name Grabbed by the Ghoulies first and then decided to base a game around it.

For Xbox gamers looking for something similar to Luigi’s Mansion though, it fit that bill quite nicely.

Brute Force

We’re kind of cheating here as Brute Force featured a quartet of characters. Tex was the heavy-arms expert, cyborg Flint provided sniper support, stealthy female Hawk could turn invisible while Brutus was something of an odd one out – a giant green lizard creature with thermal vision and healing abilities. One magazine at the time joked about why the hell gamers would want to play a game where you spend a lot of time staring at a lizard’s arse.

Microsoft must have sunk a lot of money into Brute Force, expecting it to be as big as Halo. Development started in 2000 as a PC title only for Microsoft to suggest it become an Xbox-exclusive. Three years later it finally emerged to mixed reviews. According to Wikipedia it did beat Halo’s launch day sale figures, which we assume was down to the Xbox having a much larger userbase by that point.

Voodoo Vince

Another failed attempt at providing the Xbox with a mascot, Voodoo Vince was a voodoo doll able to inflict pain on himself in order to harm the enemies around him. It sounded like an original feature on paper, but in reality it was no different from activating a smart bomb to kill everything around you.

The Xbox was never a console that could offer lots of quality platformers, but despite not quite living up to its potential this was one of the better ones. Microsoft never got around to releasing a patch so that it could be played on Xbox 360.


When first shown Nezmix received quite a bit of press attention as it was considered to be the game that would help sell the Xbox to the Japanese market. The fur effects on lead character Apollo and his mouse cohorts were quite impressive at the time too.

Sadly, it was also one of the first games to suggest that Microsoft weren’t heavily focused on quality control – reviews were terrible. As such it was only sold in chains of Toys R Us in the US, under the new name of Sneakers.

IGN gave it 2.0, describing it as a video game version of ‘tag’ in which you could only move on-rails backwards and forwards.

The worst first-party launch game ever? We’re certainly struggling to think of anything else as bad.

Jun 14
By Jake In Blog 2 Comments

The web made a step towards being a whole lot bigger yesterday, when ICANN revealed the full list of potential new generic top-level domains – because .com is terribly 1985.

Sony have gone for .playstation, .xperia and .sony. Microsoft are after a handful, including .microsoft, .xbox and .live – giving them the option of both xbox.live and live.xbox. Another Microsoft application is for .bing, which opens up the delightful possibility of badda.bing.

It’s presumably all a bit too online for Nintendo, so there’s no .wii or .virtualboy on the cards. But they’re in good company – Twitter, Facebook and eBay were among the other companies conspicuous by their absense.

At the other end of the scale, Google and Amazon have gone after 101 and 76 new gTLDs respectively. They’re both among the five companies interested in .game, but Google is one of only two parties interested in .dot – and I would have thought that dot.dot alone would hold more allure than that. But with just the application process costing $185,000, that’s a lot to pay for basically one novelty domain name.

The only other games company that jumps out of the list is Konami, but they’re only after .konami, which isn’t terribly interesting. Nothing from the likes of EA and Activision, for example.

There are some oddities in the list – which is worth a look if you’ve got half an hour to scan the 1,930 applications – but also some inspired choices. Who wouldn’t want a .ninja domain? Or what about .ooo – gamesasylum.ooo has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

No sign of .cotton though, sadly.

Jul 26
By Matt Gander In Retro 2 Comments

The discovery of a new Sonic game on an old Xbox development kit caused a bit of commotion on the internet recently because, well, it’s a Sonic game. It’s no shame Sonic Extreme was canned though. As this video shows, hedgehogs and skateboards don’t mix.

Another unreleased Xbox game has since surfaced too, and not much has been said about this one so we’re giving it some coverage. This game is Tiltronica, which features vehicles in orbs battling in what appears to be the insides of pinball machines. It looks pretty much finished but a bit on the crappy side, hence why it was probably never released. Perhaps developers Vision Scape Interactive should have spent as long on the game as they did for their rather elongated start-up logo.

Not exciting enough for you? Here’s a bonus video – a game based on Steven Spielberg’s A.I, discovered on an abandoned Xbox development system back in 2009. It’s not an adventure game or platformer but rather… a beat’em up. A.I: The Circuit, as it’s known, was in development at Radical, who are now owned by Activision and are best known for Prototype. Back when this game was still kicking around though they developed a lot of games for Vivendi, so it’s likely Vivendi bagged the license and passed it to Radical who didn’t have a bloody clue what to do with it. The video shows some very generic robots fighting in small environments. Have they even seen the movie? It could have only been worse if it were a kart racer.


Discoveries of these titles originally broke over on the uber hardcore ASSEMbler forums. If you ever want to spend an hour of your life reading about things you never knew existed, it’s a forum well worth a visit.

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