Twas the Day After Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Annual Gift Day . . .

January 1, 2004

--Posted by Stray Dog @ 17:19 PST.

Whew! Here we go. I am writing this in an attempt to help all two of you out there who read this column in spending your newly acquired Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa/Annual Gift Day money. Perhaps some of you reading this article are on your first outing into the vast reaches of the World Wide Web. Having recently crawled out of your caves, you have stumbled forth, blinking in the sunlight, sauntering nimbly past the hardcore midget wrestling sites to our front door here at LU. To you I say, "welcome, brothers and sisters, to a brave new world (wide web). We have been waiting patiently for you to join us." Many of you must be dazzled by the blinking lights and swirling colors and may be thinking, "My, my, my! These video game thingies look like a lot of fun but how shall I go about procuring one? Which system is right for me?" My answer is "all of them." However, I also understand that not all of us are prepared to lay down the green for every machine. Be warned though! There is nothing worse than being in a video game store and seeing a cool game you cannot play because you lack the proper hardware. Unless, of course you are Riposte101, who has eyes only for Xbox. For the rest of us, in the spirit of the holidays and because I'm bound to get people upset at me sooner or later, I
present:

STRAY DOG'S GUIDE TO WASTING THAT HOLIDAY DOUGH

I'm sure to make some enemies today. There are a lot of player haters out there that pledge their allegiance to one system or another and savagely brow beat anyone who stands anywhere else. To you I say this, "calm down. There are enough games for everyone." In this section I will be judging the three major consoles: the Nintendo Game Cube (GC), the Microsoft Xbox (Xbox), and the Sony PlayStation 2 (PS2). I have chosen many criteria by which I have deemed it fair to rank these consoles (no PC in this article, sorry) and their games. Those of you with short attention spans (Kicker, I'm looking in your direction), I know this is a long article but I feel that it is worth reading and, hopefully if you stick with it, you may find that it is worth reading as well.

HARDWARE

Price
First up is the most obvious criteria: how much the system costs. I based this, very basically, on what you get and what you have to pay to get. Fairly self-explanatory.

1. GC- For $100 (new, $80 used but without the extras) you get the system plus the Legend of Zelda bonus disc (super sweet). Some would say that the difference you pay for the other systems goes for the built in DVD players they have. To that I say that for that extra $80 dollars you could buy two DVD players that are better that the PS2's or one that is better than the Xbox's. Think about that for minute.

2. Xbox- Now, neither of the other systems is what I would call a bargain exactly but the Xbox comes the closest. For you $180 (new, $150 used, again without extras) you get two months of Xbox Live (the online service) plus the games Star Wars: Clone Wars and Tetris Worlds Online. You shouldn't wet your pants over either of these two games, which are passable, but nowhere near the Xbox elite. Value-wise, however, it beats the games that come packed with the PS2

3. PS2- For your $180 (new, $150 used) you get (are you ready?) a PS2! That's it. 'Nough said.

Features
I've already talked about what you get besides the system at purchase and it is high time to discuss what you get inside the system. This section is about out-of-the-box features only. No add-ons.

1. Xbox- You get the most with the Xbox: the enormous hard drive has more memory space than most gamers will ever need thereby limiting the need for memory cards, the DVD player (though you do have to buy a remote to use it) is better than the PS2's (except that it won't play certain burned DVD's) and the built in ability to download your own CD's and MP3's onto the hard drive and play you own music during certain games is unbelievably cool. Let the other systems take notice.

2. PS2- The PS2 has a DVD player that does not require a remote (though I do recommend it. Fast forwarding using the shoulder buttons is awkward). Other than that there isn't anything to speak of besides backwards compatibility (admittedly awesome). When the new PSX (modified and more expensive PS2) is released with TiVO like functions, hard drive and broadband hookups, Sony's machine will rival Microsoft's in this category. But not yet.

3. GC- The GC is a GC. Nothing more, nothing less. No real features to speak of but check out the accessories section.

Accessories
Enough about what's included, what can you add to it? If you really want to waste that holiday green, you need to accessorize, man. Now, I'm not talking about network adapters (that falls in the online category) but pure, 1st party add-ons. Check it out.

1. GC- As far as built in features goes, the GC is pretty weak, but if you factor in all the add-ons, technically, it rules. Besides the wacky stuff like the Donkey Konga drums (ooh-kaaay), the GC has some solid accessories such as the Wavebird (the sweetest, and most affordable, wireless controller ever made) and more importantly, the GC-GBA connector and the GB player.

2. PS2- There aren't as many cool extras that you can buy for the PS2. You can get the Eye Toy (which has a cult following in England), the SOCOM headset, and the hard drive.

3. Xbox really doesn't have any extras besides the LIVE! Headset. Most of its special features are included with the system.

Power
This category is basically about what each system is capable of. I, admittedly, am not a tech head but will tackle this category to the best of my ability (and based mostly on what I have read).

1. Xbox- Microsoft is always (rightfully) crowing about the "Power of X." Simply put, this system has the fastest and best processing power.

2. GC- Right behind Xbox's Goliath runs Nintendo's David. Small but potent, and, in some ways, able to stand toe to toe with Microsoft's powerhouse.

3. PS2 - One year in the technological world is like Ten years in the human world. Sony's older system cannot compete with the Xbox and GC as far as technology goes.

Graphics
You may say that this category should be lumped in with power but I didn't want to do it that way. So there. This is about what system is capable of the best graphics. Obviously, the amount of effort and skill a developer puts into their individual games vary greatly.

1. Xbox- Usually (but not always) the best graphics are on the Xbox.

2. GC- Many games on GC can compete with the Xbox but typically, GC is #2

3. PS2- Older and slightly more obsolete, the PS2 has the worst graphics (though there are exceptions) of the bunch

System Design
This is more based on practicality than anything else. I won't even bother pretending that I am any kind of judge when it comes to what is cool and what is not. This is merely how well a system sits beside your other electronic friends.

1. GC- With its compact design, the GC can fit just about anywhere in your entertainment center. It even has a convenient handle for portability. Now that's smart. And final.

2. PS2- The PS2 is larger than the GC, but can also be used in the vertical position, emptying up perfectly good shelving space that you could be using for your 3DO or Jaguar. I know that this is an issue that comes up for you as often as it comes up for me.

3. Xbox- The largest of the three major systems, this takes up even more room than my 3DO (quite a feat) and cannot be used vertically. Not a very space conscious system.

Online Plan Setup
Self-explanatory, again. What system has the best online setup, support, etc.

1. Xbox- It is nearly universally known that most people who own an Xbox do so, so that they might play online and layeth the might smack down on some 5th grader in Intercourse, PA. With its broadband only policy, the Xbox has the fastest and most well put together network.

2. PS2- More prone to hacking and not as extensive as Microsoft's, Sony's "let the developers charge what ever they want" as opposed to Xbox's flat rate doesn't work quite as well and is a little more confusing, especially since some games use the broadband only while others use dial-up as well.

3. GC- What online? Though capable of online play, in what some consider Nintendo's greatest folly of the year, the GC is still not online beside PSO and a new method, developed by average Joes, that tricks the cube into thinking that an internet hookup is a LAN connection, allowing for Double Dash and Kirby's Air Ride "Online." Bummer.

SOFTWARE

1st Party Support
What a system can do is important, but more important are the games that can run on a particular system. 1st party games are the games that the system maker (Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft) publish themselves. All are system exclusive (of course) and should be high quality.

1. GC- Nintendo has long been known for its excellent 1st party support. In fact, that's just about all the N64 had going for it. With franchises like Zelda, Mario, and Metroid, Nintendo has the best stable.

2. PS2- Mostly good stuff comes from Sony, nowadays. Titles like Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, and Sly Cooper come to mind putting Sony as a strong 2nd.

3. Xbox- Historically, especially at the beginning of it's life, the Xbox's 1st party games (except Halo) such as Blood Wake and Azurik, really weren't very good at all making the Xbox a one trick pony. Though ties have changed with titles like Crimson Skies, the Xbox cannot yet step above Sony and Nintendo in this category, but they are getting closer.

3rd Party Support
Crucial to the life of a console is it's 3rd party support. Without it, the reasons for buying the system seem fewer and further between. These include anything not published by the console companies and has no consideration for quality, only quantity.

1. PS2- Being the most popular system has its advantages. The PS2 gets most 3rd party titles because the system has the widest distribution. Therefore more people are able to buy the game you are releasing. More than any other system, if a game is coming out for only one console, it's usually the PS2.

2. Xbox- Microsoft, right off the bat has relied heavily on 3rd party games, at first because their 1st party games were of such poor quality and, now because the are the second largest console (and the graphics are slightly better, and the company will pay for extra levels and features not in the other systems' versions), a game is more likely to be released on the Xbox than the GC.

3. GC- Poor Nintendo. Recent history shows that they just cannot drum up much support in this category. Being the system with the smallest distribution, companies avoid it, not to mention that Nintendo makes publishing games for their system a little more difficult by choosing a media (cartridges for the N64 and mini-DVD's for the GC) that publishers must buy from them.

Library
The total games out there that can be played on any given system. Got it?

1. PS2- Wins by a landslide. Having been out for a yearlonger and having the best 3rd party support, PS2 already had a sizable library. Add to that the backwards compatibility equaling hundreds of PSOne games (a system that also had the best 3rd party support) and Sony is the undisputed winner.

2. Xbox- Again because of a great 3rd party support and the ease of porting PC games to the console due to compatible technology, the Xbox comes in second.

3. GC- If you were to include the GB player, which enables the user to play GB, GBC, and GBA games on the GC, you can move the GC's position up to #2. As it is, it's stuck in last with poor outside support and too few exclusives.

Good Games
As this category is highly subjective, what I'll do is list what myself, Crimson Wake, and Riposte have come up with for each system. We don't all agree 100% but I feel this gives a fairly accurate flavor of each system. Prices vary by location. Check local dealers for details.

PS2
FFX ($20-18): Beautiful visuals, engaging game play, and cheap enough to make it into my bargain bin list.

Kingdom Hearts ($20-18): Square and Disney made a game? Aaaaah! Oh, wait, it's really freakin awesome!

Ratchet and Clank 2 ($40-35): Follow up to one of the best Sony plat formers. The same formula times 10.

Gran Turismo 3 ($20-$9): The most realistic simulator that has ever existed. Now under $10, just in time for the sequel.

Tony Hawk: Underground ($50-45): True, this game is out on both other systems but Sony's is the only one with online support (the feature that really makes the game).

SOCOM 2 ($50-45): The sequel to a worthwhile shooter.

Xbox
Halo ($30-27): Xbox's first triple A title. Good luck finding a used copy in a store.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic ($50-40): The only RPG worth speaking of on the Xbox does Star Wars the way George Lucas couldn't.

Crimson Skies ($50-45): Great new first party flight combat game with online support.

Mech Assault ($20-18): Online mech action for all of you out there that don't waste your time playing games where you aren't pummeling real opponents.

Panzer Dragoon Orta ($18, used): Beautiful. Just beautiful. I hope the next one is less shooter, more RPG ala Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn).

Project Gotham Racing 2 ($50-45): The best racing game on any platform.

Deus Ex 2: Invisible War ($50-45): RPG freestyle.

Rainbow Six 3 ($50-45): The ultimate realistic tactical shooter.

GC
Legend of Zelda: the Wind Waker ($50-25): The most controversial, and arguable the most brilliant Zelda game ever. If you bought a GC, it was so that you could play this game.

Super Mario Sunshine ($30-20): Mario's latest outing. Same platforming, new twist.

Mario Kart: Double Dash ($50-45): The best kart racing game ever made. The new dual driver system is inspired. This is the other game you bought a GC for.

Metroid Prime ($30-20): We were all scared when we found out that the 3-d Metroid game was in the First person. Good thing we were wrong to doubt Shigeru (the franchises' creator).

Super Smash Brothers: Melee ($30-25): Might be the best party game ever made. So shallow and so deep at the same time.

PN03 ($30-20): Sorry this one was a joke. Couldn't help myself.

Now it's up to you to make your choice. For those of you who love to follow the numbers and demand a winner, I will now tally up the results of my survey here giving 3 points for a 1st place, 2 points for a 2nd, and, of course, 1 point for a 3rd. If you value any one category more than another (graphics, for instance), simply add an extra point to the winner, and deduct an extra for the loser. That being said the results of the console wars based on my own personal findings are (boy, this was close): Xbox: 21, Gamecube: 20, Playstation 2: 19.

Well, there you have it. I will leave you with on final word of advice on which console is right for you, and then I will shut up: if you have a broadband connection, get an Xbox. If you have friends, get a GC. If you have neither, get a PS2. Thank you and goodnight.

January 7, 2004

--Posted by KenshiroKing @ 22:02 PST.

First and foremost, I believe that ranking consoles is an exercise in futility. ESPECIALLY in the way that has been presented here. If I were the type of person to rank consoles objectively (which I'm not) I would use as my only criteria the quality of games produced for said consoles. Ergo, if you were to ask me at the end of 2002 I would have claimed that the PS2 was the numero uno system, sitting on high as a god amongst consoles. The Gamecube would have been second based on its wonderful survival horrors, Rogue Squadron 2 and my anticipation of its juicy first party games. The Xbox, due to its aforementioned short list of quality games would have placed third, but not distantly so. Fast forwarding to the end of 2003, my...list has been completely rearranged. The Xbox, by virtue of its ridiculous forthcoming game support, not to mention the bevy of titles already present, now holds the crown. In close second, again by virtue of game support, is the PS2. Now for the Gamecube. Well, I now hate the Gamecube and those fools known collectively as Nintendo. It is through the foolish blindness of Nintendo decision makers that the once mighty Nintendo has been laid low. Neither Sony nor Microsoft could have produced such complete devastation. Say what you will about the sales of Gamecubes, people are buying those things just because they are cheap. Soon they will realize that there just are almost no good games coming out for that system and, indeed, the first party games currently out, with the possible exception of Mariokart: DD, Are. Not. Good. Yup, I said it. Think about it, if you were to remove the well-loved characters from these so-called wonderful first party offerings, would you give a rat's ass? Windwaker was novel, and fun to play for about an hour, but if you had removed Link from it, it would have been just another mediocre platformer. I am honestly not sure why everyone loved Metroid; I found the control scheme to be so counterintuitive that it made that game unbearable. Even the addition of Samus Aran couldn't save that...thing. Take away the first party support and what are you left with? Crystal Chronicles. Yup, that's about it. All these people are shelling out 80 bucks for is a taste of nostalgia and a role-playing game by Square. Oh yeah, the Gamecube came in third, barely.

Hugs and Kisses,
Kenshiroking

P.S. I find it amusing that, soon, multiplatform will
mean Xbox and PS2.