Xbox 360 - my first console this gen

I already own an Xbox 360. I bought one without hesitation, without any second thought. Therefore, you'd probably all be surprised to hear that the Xbox was in no way my first choice for the previous gen.

As detailed in my "What were they saying before the Gamecube Launch?" article, way back when the generation we are now waving goodbye was starting, I had staked my hopes, cash and indeed loyalty in the camp of Nintendo and their Gamecube. Back then, I was really pretty oblivious to the problems the N64 had faced. I knew it had taken a beating at the hands of the popular PS2, but aside from that, I didn't really care about the lack of third party support.

As such, looking forward to the likes of Starfox, Mario, Zelda and of course Rareware's Titles, I bought a Gamecube. The first nail in the coffin for me was Rare's purchase by Microsoft, which, ironically, in later years has turned out to be a moot point. Despite Rare's leaving, my trust and belief in the Gamecube was absolute. It only began to waver after the releases dried up and there was little left to play.

One of my friends had an Xbox. After much consideration, I finally purchased one with Halo, Jet Set Radio Future and Sega GT. I had an incredible amount of fun. I bought Xbox Live on the day it launched, and that fun increased tenfold. I was a convert.

The original Xbox stole the show from my Gamecube


I picked up a 360 on Launch night. I bought a HDTV and Surround Sound just to experience the console at it's best, and I endured some of the worse sides of the console: The price of some accessories (I'm looking at you, Wireless Adapter) and of course the issues with some launch consoles breaking. I have had three different Xbox 360 consoles thanks to issues with each. Despite all this, I still love the console.

Anybody who reads RPGSite regularly will know I am absolutely pumped for the Wii. I can't wait. I'll be there on launch night. Part of this is because Nintendo inspires a brand loyalty that is truly close to religion, and part of this is because I really love the look and idea of the console. Despite this, the Wii won't be my main console this generation. In the rest of this article, I'll detail why. For the record, I really don't give a damn about HD-DVD vs Bluray. I'm going to sit back and watch the fight -- when there's a clear winner, I'll buy the hardware to play it.

Without further ado, these are my top reasons the Xbox 360 will be my main gaming console this generation.

The 360 in all its curvy white glory.


Online Play
The first and most important reason for me has to be Xbox Live. Despite the fact Sony is offering a similar service, I don't have the absolute faith in Sony's online plans as I do Microsoft's. Microsoft know networking; they've been doing it for years, and they know how to do it right. The original Xbox Live was incredible for me (My only previous online gaming experience was Counter-Strike and Command and Conquer on the PC and Toy Commander on the Dreamcast) and Live on the 360 is even better. The marketplace and downloads are incredible, and so far the online experience with my 360 has been fantastic. Nintendo's system looks interesting and Sony's promising, but right now, Xbox Live has me firmly in its grasp.

Rareware
Despite the fact a lot of their recent games have been total crocks of shit; I still hold a certain fondness for Rare. Perhaps it's just memories of my childhood keeping me from blaspheming about those who created Banjo and Donkey Kong Country, but I do feel that the dip in quality at Rare (which reached it's worst with the dire Starfox Adventures is coming to a close. I enjoyed Kameo, even if it was short, and unlike many I loved Perfect Dark Zero -- even though it didn't live up to the hype or better the original. I look forward to Viva Pinata, and I'm praying the rumour about a new Rare game at X06 is true... and if it is, please, god, let it be Banjo.

Xbox Live Arcade
Despite already mentioning Xbox Live, this area has impressed me so much that I think it deserves a separate mention. I've amassed no less then 14 arcade games so far and right now there's no sign of the onslaught of releases of games I'm interested in stopping. While it'll undoubtedly get eclipsed by Nintendo's Virtual Console, as I'm a retro guy at heart, I can't help but applaud Microsoft for providing this excellent platform for indie developers to release games on -- it's one way of helping smaller studios grow.

Marble Blast Ultra, one of my favourite XBL Arcade Games.


My Personal Multimedia Hub
My Xbox 360 had become the heart of my entertainment system -- I use it when I want to play music, I use it to show my friends things from my pictures folder, and I've even used the hard drive once as temporary storage. Microsoft's connectivity with Windows XP is superb -- and so it should be, as they develop and own the Operating System, and it's just getting better. Thanks to the XBStream software, I can now view news and RSS feeds on my 360, too. All it needs now is video streaming from my PC... and I hear that's on the way.

Gamercards/Gamerscore
Something that wasn't present on the original Xbox, but damn, I wish it was now. The existences of Gamercards and Gamerscore have completely changed the way that I play. I'm now ferociously competitive -- not so much that I Gamerpoints harvest -- at the time of writing, I've just over 6000 points, which is above most of my friends and rivals online, so I'm happy. It makes me strive to do extra things in games I wouldn't do before -- taking photos in Dead Rising becomes a necessity, getting A-ranks in Kameo a challenge with a reward everyone can see -- it just makes gaming more fun. The Reputation system is a nice (if underused) aspect, the zone is a good idea that needs better implementation (I mean, what does it actually do?), but aside from that the customisation is superb, allowing you to change your name, have a picture for strangers and a picture for friends and a "motto" to go with your name. Sony are hot on the idea and have their own version on the PS3, and Nintendo are doing something similar with the Mii channel, but for now in my mind, the 360 version is established and reigns supreme -- but that could change.

My Gamercard as of 25th September, 2006.


The Remote
It's such a small little thing, but I don't know where I'd be without it. As a launch console buyer, I got the smaller Media Remote free of charge. I think they should bundle this baby free of charge. It makes watching DVDs and Browsing my files and the Marketplace so much easier, and all without running down the precious charge of the actual controller. It may not be as cool as the Wii Remote, but it's a worthy addition to the console. Hopefully Sony will include a similar thing.

The Dashboard
Sexy, sleek, stylish -- there are lots of words beginning with s that I'd use to describe the dashboard, and certain negative s words certainly don't apply. I love the look of it, the "swishing" sound effect as you change blades and the plop when you make a selection is optional but to me it feels right -- it's not irritating and it fits. The ability to download and select themes to your tasting and kinda-sorta make your own themes with background customisation is great. Just a few small gripes -- more blade colours, and the ability to set a different custom background for each blade, please. Otherwise, this is a major reason to own the console for me. It makes accessing media from my computer so much easier.

The Dashboard is Sexy, Stylish, and best of all customisable.


Online Connectivity
I kind of touched on this with the mention of Gamercards and Gamerscore, but all that is inside the console itself. However, the 360 has some fantastic connections to the wider web that have thus far been put to fantastic use. If there's one thing that Microsoft benefits from because they are based in the West, it's this. The 360 streams lots of data about your gaming habits -- what you play, when, for how long, if you watch movies -- straight to their data centres. This is expected in the PS3, but the difference is Microsoft, unlike their Japanese rivals, aren't secretive. They've made this information available to others, and so now, thanks to 360voice.com, My Xbox 360 can Blog. All these additions have served to make console gaming more fun, and have caused me to strive to game better -- get more achievements, and play more often -- so I can show off to my friends and rivals. Hopefully people will continue to create more wonderful additions using the information Microsoft releases to us.

Finally...the exclusive titles.
While Rareware is a personal star in the line-up of developers and titles (As I mentioned, their past track record causes me to have faith even against my own will), there's no shortage of other fantastic titles out or to look forward to. In fighters there's Dead or Alive, for driving nuts Project Gotham Racing and Forza, Saint's Row for GTA fans while we wait for GTA IV, and other fantastic exclusives such as Table Tennis, Dead Rising and Oblivion (on consoles, at least). Of course, we've got Microsoft's two big hitters, Gears of War and Halo, while us RPG nuts are about ready to explode for Sakaguchi's Blue Dragon and Lost Oddesy.

Blue Dragon is one 360 game that is bound to unmissable.


In Conclusion...
For a few generations now, I've been one of those people who buys everything on offer. For example, while I didn't get a PS2 until just a year ago, I eventually got one. That's definitely the plan with this gen -- I want an Xbox, I definitely want a Wii, and Final Fantasy XIII alone makes the PS3 a necessary purchase. Despite this, each generation, there's always been one console that is my main one -- the one I play the most, and the one that I buy multiplatform titles for. For the majority of the last generation, it was the Gamecube. As the Gamecube proceeded to die early in the later stages of the gen, my main console became the Xbox.

This generation, I think that main console will be the 360. This is mostly because of the reasons above, but also to be noted is the fact that the PS3 for me is simply too expensive to warrant a launch purchase.

Whatever your reasons, if as a first, second, or even third-choice console, you're bound to have fun with the 360 this generation. I guarantee it.

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