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.