Xbox LIVE Wrap-Up for April 8th, 2010

Just as I talk about how the service is slowly picking up from its lull, we get hit with this week. I’m guessing a good group of folks are still in Easter vacation mode. However, it doesn’t leave me with much to write about today. Thankfully, I had a few bonus features tucked away for this week, so we aren’t at a total loss for this week’s edition of Xbox LIVE Wrap-Up. That being said, let’s awkwardly start off this week’s update with no Xbox LIVE Arcade title!

Xbox LIVE Arcade
I suppose the Xbox LIVE Arcade service deserves a break every once in a while, as it isn’t like Nintendo where it seemingly tries to piss off most of the Diehard GameFAN staff by ignoring the Virtual Console. However, yes, I cannot find any evidence of an Xbox LIVE Arcade title this week. Fortunately, we do have a few updates on Xbox LIVE Arcade titles for our readers to take in and enjoy. Next week, we’ll see the return of Capcom with the much-anticipated re-release of Final Fight: Double Impact, which gives players arcade-perfect versions of Final Fight and Magic Sword for 800 Microsoft Points. You can get a look at this brawler-packed blast from the past in Diehard GameFAN’s Final Fight: Double Impact screenshot gallery.

If you missed it on Monday, Christopher Bowen posted a marvelous breakdown of the Game Room service (it’s also pretty hard to not notice Brandon Chowden’s review of the Xbox Indie title Shoot 1UP from the front page), which will again be receiving regular updates later this month. Last week did bring us Mega Man in its 10th iteration in the main series, and I have been able to get a small amount of time in with the game. The great news is this new installment hasn’t lost the classic touch, featuring great sprites, catchy music, and innovative level designs. With my first sit-down, I was able to disassemble the eight robot masters in short order and now the twisted paths of Dr. Wily’s castle lie before me (don’t give me any crap about spoilers; it’s not like it wasn’t blatantly obvious Wily was behind the virus). If I get some free time in the near future, you might be able to see a review of the title, but, for now, this title will lead us into our next Xbox LIVE section …

Game Add-Ons – Mega Man 10
Just as I pointed out in the Xbox LIVE Wrap-Up for April 1st, Mega Man 10 has received the first of its string of game add-ons. Yesterday, Capcom launched an expansion that allows players to play as Bass (or Forte if you roll by Rockman rules). Although Bass’ double jump was removed to accommodate to the 8-bit gameplay, he plays very similar to his Mega Man & Bass appearance, including his ability to shoot in seven directions with rapid fire. Downloading Bass will cost a mere 160 Microsoft Points, and players can also pick up an additional time attack stage with Enker (originally from Mega Man: Dr. Wily’s Revenge) as a boss for 80 Microsoft Points.


Xbox LIVE Deal of the Week – Geometry Wars 2 is now 400 Microsoft Points
Seeing as Geometry Wars was an early staple of the Xbox LIVE Arcade service, it was good to see its sequel pull through and make the experience even more enjoyable. Well, for this week only, you can enjoy the sequel at the same price as its predecessor. I haven’t been able to spend much time on the title, but I thoroughly enjoyed the new modes, the multplayer, and the great soundtrack and flashy visuals. If you want a full breakdown of the title, please check out Matt Yeager’s review of Geometry Wars 2.

Game Demo – Blur Multiplayer
While it was previously only available to select few, Activision’s Blur multiplayer beta is now public for all to enjoy. Blur can be described as a “grown-up Mario Kart,” featuring more realistic street racing aesthetics, while offering a host of crazy power-ups and weapons that have been made synonymous with the kart racing genre. When I dabbled with the beta, I was given two different game types with a moderate amount of options. Players are rewarded through frequent play and passing challenges that gives the player more options, buffers, and content as they level up. This might be one to watch as it goes neck and neck with another promising racer in Split/Second, but with the demo now available, you can give Blur a try and see what you think.

Games on Demand – Fable II, Kung-Fu Panda
That’s quite a contrast of styles, but it brings two more titles to the digital service nonetheless. Fable II comes at Xbox LIVE users at the fair price of $19.99. On the other hand, Kung Fu Panda, ranks in at $29.99. I’m not speaking ill about Kung Fu Panda as it was a semi-enjoyable game and great for the younger crowd and family gameplay, but let’s take a look at this price tag. After being a holiday pack-in title, I seriously have to question the $30 decision – you can easily pick this game up used for less than $10 and you can even score a two-disc set that also features the family-friendly LEGO Indiana Jones for around $10. I’ll green light the Fable II price, but, man, $30 for Kung Fu Panda is about as off as I’ve ever seen on the Games on Demand service.

Music Marketplace
With many music game titles receiving expansion content on a weekly basis, it may start to become hard to follow, especially with these updates usually covering up the entire line of recent updates on the Xbox Dashboard. This week, new updates unfold for our usual lineup of titles:

Rock Band Anberlin – “Feel Good Drag”
Hawk Nelson – “Live Life Loud”
Skillet – “Monster”
Superchick – “Stand in the Rain”
Switchfoot – “Meant to Live”
Thousand Foot Krutch – “Fire It Up”

Guitar Hero
Fall Out Boy Track Pack
“Thnks fr th Mmrs”
“This Ain’t a Scene, It’s an Arms Race”
“The Take Over, The Breaks Over”

Lips
The Four Tops Song Pack
“Baby I Need Your Loving”
“I Can’t Help Myself”
“Reach Out I’ll Be There”

Diehard GameFAN Recognizes (“Original”) Xbox LIVE Titles
To close out this week’s update, we have a special feature in recognition of Xbox LIVE services for the Xbox being shut off permanently on April 15. Although its legacy will live on with the continuation of Xbox LIVE as we currently know it on the Xbox 360, I had some of our staff elect to throw in some of their Xbox favorites on the service that pioneered how we look at online consoles today.

Halo 2
There’s no way this title couldn’t have been on the list. In fact, it was Halo 2‘s free trail card to Xbox LIVE that got me launched on to the service and it could be argued that Halo 2 is what catapulted online gaming to where it is right now. Sure, maybe that means Halo 2 is where getting called obscene names by a 10-year-old originated from as well. However, Halo 2 still remains as the Xbox’s most-played game as people still seem to be popping this disc into their Xbox 360. While PC gamers had been experiencing the online battles for some time, Halo 2 definitely set the stage for console gamers to get in on the action and stands as our most influential Xbox LIVE title on the list.

Phantasy Star Online
If there was one thing you could say about the Xbox, it was definitely void of many RPG experiences. Although a handful of MMO titles were planned, nearly all of them ended with the crushing news of being cancelled, including the much-anticipated True Fantasy Live. Although it found its way over from the SEGA Dreamcast, some of our staff still had some fondness in store for Phantasy Star Online Episodes I & II on Xbox LIVE. It was a foreign concept to me – I pay for Internet service, then I pay to be on Xbox LIVE and now I have to pay to play this online game. I loved Phantasy Star Online so much that it was a price I was willing to pay. Even though PSO isn’t massive in its multiplayer online gameplay, the Xbox handled the OG of online console RPGs well, and fighting through Boomas was just as fun as always.

Crimson Skies
Crimson Skies was packed in with initial Xbox LIVE packages giving players a game, a headset, and Xbox LIVE service, just like we still have today. However, I can’t say any game pack-ins have caught my attention much like Crimson Skies. The arcade-style dogfighting was a welcome change of pace during the time of its release, but when you loaded a full multplayer room and cut everyone loose, the true shining nature of Crimson Skies really breaks through. With lots of options, expansive maps, and explosive combat, Crimson Skies was a match made in heaven for the Xbox LIVE service and still holds up very well to this day. I’m sure fans have been holding their breath for a sequel, but, unfortunately, so far there has been no dice on that front.

Star Wars: Battlefront
With two games in the series under its belt on the Xbox, much like Halo 2, this series of Star Wars titles still sees its fair share of online gameplay. The Battlefront series combines two things many people like – Star Wars and the Battlefield series. The result is an epic, large-scale war that intensifies as you add in more players. While Battlefield has moved on to larger audiences and the Battlefront series has slid downhill, the first two entries were easily entertaining, especially for Star Wars fans that got to mow down Storm Troopers. The online playability might not match what we have today with Battlefield, but Battlefront definitely held its own on the Xbox and doesn’t disappoint fans of large-scale battles.

Counterstrike
Surely PC fans scoffed at the thought of playing Counterstrike on the Xbox, but given the number of console gamers that surged through the past few generations of consoles, the system’s online gameplay made the Xbox a sure bet for the title. Being crafted to the Xbox controller and services, Counterstrike didn’t disappoint those willing to overlook the absence of a mouse and keyboard and still ranks among the most-played Xbox games over Xbox LIVE. Even though the format changed, the essence of Counterstrike was still embedded in the Xbox version and it made a lot of trigger-happy FPS gamers happy.

Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory
Although Sam Fisher didn’t exactly stay Xbox exclusive for long, the Xbox LIVE service made his third entry a big deal. Not only could two people team up to take on campaign missions with co-op moves, but players could also enter versus matches that incorporated the same tactics found in the single-player mode. Chaos Theory is, again, another title still seeing frequent play and for good reason. When you are able to take the stealth genre and inject some solid multplayer features into it, you’re bound to have a formula for success on Xbox LIVE.

Steel Battalion: Line of Contact
I can’t say Capcom’s Steel Battalion was played heavily by gamers, but you just can’t ignore that massive control panel that the game was sold with. Although Microsoft had MechAssault, Steel Battalion actually put gamers into the seat of a mech with an intimidating array of switches, panels and buttons. Once players learned the ropes, though, the experience was massively satisfying and the use of Xbox LIVE further perpetuated the experience. Perhaps the only thing that could pull you even further into the game are the interactive mech motion arcade cabinets. SEGA tried to recapture the spirit of Steel Battalion with ChromeHounds, however, it just isn’t the same.

Dead or Alive Ultimate
Dead or Alive wasn’t the only fighting game in town, but given how most of them played while being online, the general fighting game on Xbox LIVE was pretty much unplayable. Although Dead or Alive wasn’t perfect when fighting online, with the backing of Microsoft and the game’s exclusivity, these remakes were probably as good as it got for most fighting game fans. With a further bump up in graphics and content from previous versions, Dead or Alive Ultimate gave fans a new look at Dead or Alive 2 along with the original arcade title. With Microsoft’s heavy marketing, it wasn’t hard to notice the Dead or Alive franchise on the system, which is probably why the title was one of the most popular for its time on the service.

Conker Live & Reloaded
Showing up at the end of the Nintendo 64’s life, a lot of gamers did miss out on Conker’s Bad Fur Day the first time around. During the span of the Xbox and Gamecube, Microsoft notoriously snatched up Rare as Nintendo began to struggle pretty hard in the market and put them to uses that had gamers baffled. One result of the development studio was a re-imagining of Conker that infused Xbox LIVE gameplay for those that couldn’t get enough of the multiplayer battles. I never liked the multiplayer battles in Conker Live & Reloaded, but a lot of people did, making it, once again, another title that still climbs the Xbox charts to this day. Maybe it’s the vulgar content and maybe people just like playing the game. All I know is I won’t step in the way of gamers having a good time.

DanceDanceRevolution Ultramix
In the final spot on our list, I’m going bold and throwing this one in. Not only did the Konami team based out of Hawaii pump out some quality titles that actually changed the interface and stale conventions of the DDR series with Ultramix and inject relevant U.S. dance music into the series, but it launched what could be considered some of the very first digital expansion content in console gaming. Sure, you could play the game online, but these digital transactions helped shape what we current see with Rock BandUltramix’s purchased content even flowed into other Ultramix titles. There was a time early in the century where DDR was the untouchable king of music gaming. I don’t know what the hell happened to make these series nose dive into the dirt, but, yes, there was a time where DDR was arguably one of the most innovative titles in gaming history and we saw this even on Xbox LIVE.

Thanks for sticking with us on this slow week. We’ll be back next week with more updates, but, for now, if you have Xbox LIVE memories stemming from Microsoft’s first console, we’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Remember, you have until April 15 to play Xbox titles on Xbox LIVE, and don’t forget to do your taxes if you haven’t done so already!

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