Cinematech Episode 252: “Elegy for a Generation”
In this ep, Gamespot editors reflected on the sixth-generation consoles (PS2, Nintendo GameCube, and Microsoft Xbox) in the form of faux funeral services, before the launch of the first seventh-gen console later that year – the Microsoft Xbox 360. This ep could be considered a bit Harsher in Hindsight because it features the late Ryan Davis, in an ep that plays the eclipse of the sixth gen for some straight-faced laughs.
In the openings for the segments, they made birth announcements for the consoles and put them in diapers. Later, they actually put the consoles in open caskets and threw roses on top of them.
Timecode: 0:44: “It's a console!” “GameCube” Weight: 3 lbs. 6 oz. Born November 18th, 2011
- Davis: The GameCube launched in November 2001, effectively putting the final nail in the Nintendo 64's coffin. The years following the GameCube's launch offered a handful of great, unique games. Nintendo took some chances, and released some unique products over the last few years, and Animal Crossing's release was definitely an unexpected surprise.
It established a successful series that continues to this day.
- ”Metroid Prime was released on 11/17/2002, the one-year anniversary of the GameCube's launch.””Despite the fact being more and more well-known now, we still get an occasional email from someone that refers to Samus Aran as a 'he'.””Many were skeptical of Metroid Prime throughout its development.””But with compelling gameplay and wide-open worlds, Prime does the series justice just fine.”
Don't forget the sky-high production values.
I forgot that this was back when Nintendo was still keeping the Wii under wraps and had it codenamed “Revolution”.
6:09: “It's a console!” “PlayStation 2” Weight: 9lbs. 14oz. Born: October 26th, 2000
- Gerstmann: The launch of the PlayStation 2 capped off Sony's successful entry into the video game business with the original PlayStation. The PlayStation 2 was an immediate sales success, though the games available at the system's launch weren't really an indicator that the PS2 would the juggernaut of the generation.
I remember when the PS2 first launched and people complained about the jaggies that the early games had.
- Gerstmann: As time marched on, the PS2 became the home of a bunch of huge games. How about Metal Gear Solid 2, huh? With its drive-you-crazy storyline, MGS2 was a game that got people talking, and then had them yammering on and on about the plot for years.
It also introduced the character of Raiden, who was poorly received as a Replacement Scrappy for the series' mainstay hero, Solid Snake. It didn't help that Raiden was conceived as an “You Suck” kind of character in a very strange Deconstruction of the military action game genre. In subsequent appearances, Hideo Kojima was a good sport about Raiden and his reputation, making Raiden the butt of many an injoke, until he was treated more seriously in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and the PlatinumGames-developed Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance.
- Gerstmann: Some of Sony's other big additions to the gaming landscape include the Ratchet & Clank series, and the ever-popular, ever-dark God of War. The PS2 definitely got its share of sometimes useful peripherals. The Network Adapter, obviously, is the most useful PS2 add-on you can get. The EyeToy might not have a ton of available games, but the unique games that have been made available are interesting diversions from the norm. The PlayStation 2 Hard Drive seemed like a really neat idea at the time, but instead, it's only good for Final Fantasy XI.
Hey, it also reduced load times for the beleaguered Resident Evil: Outbreak spinoffs.
Gerstmann then briefly mentions the infamous PS3 demo footage shown at E3 that year, and questions whether or not any of it was real. Well, it may be impossible to know for sure, but I think that some of it was real-time gameplay footage, while others, like the Killzone 2 footage, was mostly bollocks. In my opinion, the thing about dressed-up footage like that is, eventually, the actual games for the system wind up looking better than that. Or maybe I just prefer real-time graphics to prerendered graphics.
12:16: It's a console! And it's a big one, too: the Xbox, weighing in at 8 lbs, 13 oz. On November 15th, 2001. Greg Kasavin, then-Site Director for Gamespot, explains the system's backstory:
- Kasavin: No one really expected that Microsoft would have been so successful with its first foray into video game consoles. The Xbox launched back in November of 2001 with a bunch of games, and yet, it really only launched with one.
It also launched with a completely horrible fighting game published by Crave Entertainment called Kabuki Warriors that baffled many a reviewer. This game was actually Gamespot's "winner" for worst game of 2001.
- Kasavin: Kabuki Warriors... words simply can not describe how... amazingly awful this game is.Kasavin: Out of the gate, the Xbox struggled. Although Halo was a runaway success, few other games even began to approach that same level of depth and quality. Eventually, Microsoft released Halo2. Between Halo and Halo 2, we got some stunning games.
Including Team Ninja's infamously difficult reboot of Ninja Gaiden and SEGA's Panzer Dragoon Orta.
- Kasavin: Though it wasn't the only console with online games this generation, the Xbox did online right.
15:55: Trivia for Halo with the series' trademark “Save the World” theme playing in the background. I love this song so much.
- Halo was originally planned to be released on the Mac first.
Can you imagine how different the gaming landscape would be if it was exclusive to the Mac? The Xbox as we know it today may not have even existed.
- It looked like some kind of big, squad-based shooter back then, too.Then Microsoft bought Bungie and Halo moved to the PC.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
- But wait, forget the PC! Halo ended up releasing on the Xbox first.
When Halo was ported to the PC in 2003, PC gamers were nonplussed.
- With its easy-to-control vehicles and large, wide open spaces, Halo inspired a generation of knock-offs
But did it inspire as many as Call of Duty? I'm not saying that CoD is better than Halo, I'm just curious. If it did, then that probably says more about the risk-averse video game publishers than the objective quality of both franchises. Now that I think about it, I would argue that Grand Theft Auto III was the most ripped-off game of that generation. The GTA wannabes were interminable.
- That's why you keep hearing the term “Halo-killer”.But really, the only Halo-killer out there is... Halo 2.
- Kasavin: The future of the Xbox is the Xbox 360.
- Kasavin: Microsoft's last original game on the Xbox is Conker: Live and Reloaded.
Wasn't it considered kind of a Porting Disaster compared to the original Nintendo 64 version (which was also one of the last games released on that system)? The game even received some censorship compared to the original version. I remember Xplay being nonplussed by it, and Adam Sessler even said on the state of developer Rareware, that they had better be working on the long-gestating Perfect Dark Zero. Apparently, they did not. PDZ was a lot different from the ambitious but fun Perfect Dark (N64, 2000), without really being an improvement. PDZ was one of those games that I could spend a lot of time talking about in regards to its mediocrity, but why talk about something so average...?
18:03: The Gamespot editors attend the funeral of the Nintendo GameCube. They threw a rose into the system's open casket.
- Davis: I remember when I first picked it up, and got my copy of Super Monkey Ball. It was unlike anything I'd ever played. It was – it was pretty amazing.Gerstmann: The highs were so high, but they were so far and few between, y'know?
Isn't that the same story with every Nintendo console (barring the handhelds) since the N64 days?
- Gerstmann: Nintendo's games were fantastic, but... what else was there?Davis: Well, there was stuff like Resident Evil 4, you can't discount that. Capcom gave it a good swing. There's Killer7, there's plenty other good, third-party games. I remember when I spent New Year's with Animal Crossing, trying to get the special costumes and talking to Tom Nook. I'm gonna miss him the most.Gerstmann: M-hm. Pour one out for Tom Nook.
He's still kicking around in the later AC games!
- Davis: It was a grand, grand adventure.Gerstmann: Too bad it didn't have any online support.Davis: You could always hook up your Game Boy to it.[Beat]Gerstmann: Yeah, too bad about not having any online support.
Nintendo thought that online gaming would be a passing fad. Seriously. They really did. The fools!
- 19:18: The Gamespot guys bid adieu to the original Xbox.Gerstmann: To me, what stands out about the Xbox, the thing I'll always remember... was all those 12-year-old kids yelling into my earpiece, telling me that I'm gay... Asking about chocolate milk...
- Davis: But for all of the trials and tribulations you went through, Xbox Live really was a revolutionary thing. It totally changed the way that anyone thought online gaming could be done, and without the Xbox, what we're seeing in the future probably wouldn't happen.
20:30: Finally, they bid farewell to the PS2.
- Gerstmann: I waited in line overnight to get my first PlayStation 2.Davis: It was cold out in front of that Wal-Mart.Gerstmann: Raining. It was terrible.Kasavin: It was worth it.Gerstmann: It might not have been the most powerful system in the world, but with the sheer number of games, the number of different genres that thing covered... you know, no matter what you were into, the PlayStation 2 totally had something right up your alley.Davis: My alley happened to be filled with criminals in Grand Theft Auto III. Without Grand Theft Auto III, who knows what gaming would be like today? It totally changed the face of it. That was thanks to the PlayStation 2.Gerstmann: The PlayStation 2 made a whole lot of things possible. Definitely took gaming in a much more mainstream direction.Davis: I don't know if I'm ready to say goodbye, but... I think it's time to move on.Gerstmann: You're right.
The ep ends with footage from some of the PS3 and Xbox 360 games featured at E3 2005.
This ep wasn't as funny as the “How to Be a Player” one, but it tried to be a little less serious than the ones about 1998 and females in games. It's an OK ep. I have mixed feelings about it because it seems a little indecisive? I would have preferred a more straightforward eulogy for the consoles. And then there's also the fact that Davis passed away in 2013, which makes this ep a little more uncomfortably harsher in hindsight.
So that was The Sixth Generation of Console Video Games in a nutshell. I would like to present my opinions on the consoles and games available then.
Obviously, the PS2 had the widest variety of games to appeal to the hardcore gamer, but it was pretty dry until the fall of 2001 or so, when many of the Killer Apps finally came out. The biggest one for me was Silent Hill 2, an excellent horror game with great atmosphere (remember when mainstream developers actually made horror games with atmosphere?) and story. This is one of my favorite games of all time, though not necessarily for its actual gameplay. It is one of those games that succeeds more as a story to be experienced.
My other favorites include: Final Fantasy X, Shin Megami Tensei: Nocturne, Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, Kingdom Hearts II, Tales of the Abyss, Tekken5, Virtua Fighter 4, SSX Tricky, Onimusha 2: Samurai's Destiny, and Rogue Galaxy. There are a whole lot more hidden gems than these out there for this ludicrously successful system.
The Xbox was the sixth-generation console that we got last. What was cool was that we were able to get a lot of used copies of the good games for the system at the time.
My favorites on the Xbox included: Otogi 2 Immortal Warriors, a hidden gem from a pre-Dark Souls From Software; Guilty Gear X2; PDO; and Phantom Dust, which is going to be rebooted for the Xbox One. Somewhat amusingly, the Xbox saw an Updated Re-release for SH2 subtitled Restless Dreams, but I never got that version. Also, you can't forget BioWare's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the original property, Jade Empire, one that I hope we will get to see again some time in the future. I also liked what I saw of Obsidian's Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, but I haven't played it much.
One thing that they glossed over in the ep is the Xbox's failure to engage the Japanese gaming market, a drawback that carried over to the Xbox 360, despite Namco releasing Tales of Vesperia on that system first before porting it to the PS3 with some extras like two new playable party members. It's not like there weren't ANY good Japanese games made for the 360, it's just that there are a lot of cultural differences between Japan and other regions that make Western systems and games less likely to succeed over there.
Here's one bizarre tidbit related to Japanese Xbox game development: There was a Shin Megami Tensei game released exclusively in Japan called Shin Megami Tensei NINE, which is not the ninth mainline MegaTen game (Atlus is only up to Shin Megami Tensei IV). The game was basically a trial effort to establish interest in a title with online aspects, and it had character designs by Yasuomi Umetsu, but the game bombed. Apparently, it just wasn't that good. Umetsu's character designs are more grounded than usual for one of his works. It's just a matter of taste, because he's not a bad artist at all, but I prefer the artwork of Atlus' own artists like Kazuma Kaneko and Shigenori Soejima for SMT games. Soejima's artwork is soooo GOOOD. /drools
Ultimately, NINE is one of the less essential SMT titles alongside Ronde on the SEGA Saturn.
Last but not least, the GameCube, the cute little cubical system that could. This was the second of the sixth-gen systems that we got. Like the Gamespot guys said, there wasn't a huge number of hardcore games for the 'Cube, but what was good was VERY good. Stuff like Super Smash Bros. Melee (still my fav of the series), RE4, AC, and Tales of Symphonia. It is a CRIME that they didn't mention this game at all. It finally popularized the Tales Series in North America after Tales of Destiny and Tales of Destiny II on the PS1 years before. I would also like to give an honorable mention to K7 because it was such a weird and memorable game, despite arguably having very average gameplay. Also, you can't forget the Resident Evil remake, which will receive an HD upgrade for the PS3, Xbox 360, PS 4, and Xbox One. There was also the two Metroid Prime games from Retro Studios. It's good to know that people are still clamoring for more Metroid. There's demand... now all that Nintendo needs to do is supply.
Reader Participation: Do you have any funny stories relating to how you got some of your favorite consoles? Or just stories of how you were impressed by a system in the first place?
My most recent favorite is the Nintendo 3DS. I only had two games to start with: Fire Emblem: Awakening and Professor Layton and the Miracle Mask. I'm not certain, but I think that I didn't pick up Awakening at first. By the time we were getting ready to check out, I trucked back and got the game after all. I started off playing around with some of the system's apps like the 3DS camera, and then I started Awakening, my first-ever Fire Emblem game. The rest is history.
I had heard of the FE series before through game magazines like Nintendo Power, but I wasn't interested in them until Awakening came out with its strong ad campaign. But I think that the real tipping point was ProJared's glowing review of the game. And you want to know what got me into Jared's vids in the first place? His review of Drake of the 99 Dragons, linked on the Horrible.Video Games subpage. If it wasn't for my morbid curiosity about bad video games, and my awareness of the horribleness of Drake, I may never have gotten into ProJared, and therefore never into one of my favorite games of all time. What's the point of all of this? I don't know, maybe that sometimes curiosity is rewarded in strange and unexpected ways?
Jared is a guy who is beholden to his opinions, but not in a Jerkassy way. He has a review of one game in particular that I, and several others, disagree with (judging by the vid's like/dislike ratio), and it's by far the review I disagree with the most, but as far as I know, he doesn't look down on people who do like the game.
I also really enjoyed getting my PS3 online for the first time and trying online gaming and, later, YouTube. I loved the Dreamcast, too, but that's more of a bittersweet tale. Really, any good console is fun to check out at first.
In the years since this ep first aired, Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo are still hanging in there with their respective consoles. Nintendo is dominating the handheld market with the Nintendo 3DS; Sony is trying to compete with the PlayStation Vita, but it's not doing very well. Microsoft has stayed out of that market altogether, which I think is a bit disappointing.
Gamespot is still ongoing, but has faced some controversy here and there. In November 2007, Gerstmann was fired from his position on the site. There were rumors that it was over his giving Kane & Lynch a less-than-favorable rating than publisher Eidos desired. All entities involved in the kerfluffle dismissed such claims. Gerstmann later went on to found Giant Bomb with several other former Gamespot staffers, including Davis, who was a co-founder. There was also a controversy when staffer Carolyn Petit criticized Grand Theft Auto V as "politically muddled and profoundly misogynistic".
Kasavin later left Gamespot in 2007 to enter game development, and became the writer and creative director for Bastion.
And, well... we all know what happened to Cinematech and G4 itself, along with the already-dying embers of TechTV, the channel that G4 cannibalized in the first place.
- Game Sack: Nintendo GameCube
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- Hardcore Gaming 101: Other SMT games