Monday, November 23, 2015

Ben's Gaming Memories - The Xbox 360

You know, it's sometimes hard to believe just how fast time flies. When you're a kid time seems to crawl along, and you are constantly waiting for that next big moment in your life. In school you would wait for the weekend, holidays like Christmas could never get here fast enough, and summer vacation took what seemed like years to get here, but was over oh so fast. This is the way life was back then, but as we get older things changed -- or rather, the way we perceive time changed.

Now you may be wondering what this has to do with anything, but let me just ask this... Did you know that the Xbox 360 turned 10 yesterday? Yes, that's right. The console many of us are still hanging onto, and the games we may still be playing are now a decade old. Where did time go? It seems like just yesterday the console was coming out and competing with the (then) upcoming Wii and PS3, but now here we are in 2015 and the 8th generation consoles have replaced it. For a 10 year old, these past years have been their entire life, and everything that happened in that short span of time was everything they know, but for us, it's only a small part of ours. Most Xbox fans can still recall the day they picked up their Xbox 360 (which was possibly the first of many), and that's exactly what I'm going to be doing. In honor of the Xbox 360's 10th Birthday, here's my story of how I became an Xbox gamer.

When the Xbox 360 was first coming out, I honestly didn't care about it at all. There were only a handful of games I liked on the original Xbox, and I knew that my parents wouldn't buy it for me. I wasn't quite old enough to get a job yet, and even if I had one there were GCN, and PS2 games out there I wanted more -- plus the Wii was going to be out within a year so I would have rather saved for that. In short, the 360 really didn't have anything to offer me, but I did think the demos in Walmart looked cool graphic wise. Even so, graphics weren't enough for me to actually want one, and I decided it would be best to just ignore it -- a decision I'm actually happy I made.

A little while later, SEGA announced the brand new "Sonic the Hedgehog" game, and it made me sad (but not for the reason you may be thinking of). I was a huge fan of the Sonic series, and Sonic Adventure 1 and 2 were two of my favorite games at the time. I had played both of them nearly every day, and I would go to school and talk about them with my friends. They were two games that became a big part of my life, and when I heard they were finally making a game that was similar to them I couldn't wait to play it -- the problem was, it was going to be on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 only. So, what did I do? I gave up hope. There was no way that I was going to get either console, and I knew there was always a small chance that plans could change -- that the game could come out for the Wii, and even PC (which originally they planned both, but canceled both), so I waited.

When Sonic "06" came out, I once again took a look at the game. I watched the story on the semi-new YouTube, and I started looking around forums at what people had to say about the game. Although I heard nothing but bad news, the game still looked great to me, and I was more than willing to look past it's issues just as I did with Adventure 1 and 2. I knew the game was "bad," but I didn't care; I really, REALLY, wanted it. So, what did I do? I asked for the Wii for Christmas of course.

Even though I wanted Sonic 06, the Wii still had more to offer me. I saw no reason to ask for an Xbox instead, and I knew that I would regret getting one. I figured, if I got the Wii first, I would then be able to go back and get the Xbox 360 later. I wasn't sure how I would get one, but I knew if I didn't give up hope that one day it would be mine... That didn't happen until 2008.

While I had played Games like Guitar Hero 3, Halo 3, Rockband, and Skate at my friend's house, during special days at school, and when my cousin came home to visit, it wasn't until I got my first job that I was able to get an Xbox 360 for myself. I used to talk to kids at school about what games I should get for it, and when my uncle opened his Bakery and I started working there, I already had an idea of what to buy once I got one. I had decided that the console finally had a large enough library worth owning it for, and as soon as I saved enough paychecks it was the first thing I bought -- along with Sonic 06.

My memories of Sonic 06 are both good and bad. I went to Walmart with my dad and picked both the console and game, and when we got back I took it over to my mom's work (yes, the house that burned down awhile back). This was actually the first and last time my Xbox 360 was ever used in that house as only a few months later it was closed. That night I spent the night there, and stayed up well into early morning playing. Yes, it had issues, but I still didn't care -- I was finally playing a game I had waited years for and I was happy. The next morning I woke up and continued where I left off, and when I took the console home one of my friends came over and played. It was a fun day, and one that will always be burned into my memory.

After Sonic 06, I began using my paycheck each week for new games. Since I was late getting it many of the good ones out at the time were cheap (again, glad I waited), but I still had just enough to get the new ones a well. I remember going to the mall and picking up Orange Box so that I could finally play Portal, Ace Combat 6 was one I picked up at Walmart because a friend recommended it, I was finally able to play Skate, Armored Core 4 was the first AC game I was able to play since 2, and for the first time in my life I was able to own a Halo game as well. On top of that, there were also games I took a chance on and ended up loving (such as Lost Planet), and after getting Xbox Live I was able to play with friends online. The whole Xbox 360 experience was probably the most fun I had with a gaming console in quite a long time, and I loved every single minute of it. Sure there was a constant fear of it breaking and getting the Red Ring of Death, but when I was playing games like Need for Speed Pro Street I completely forgot about it. These games became a big part of my life during my last year of high school, and they are memories I will treasure forever. Playing Halo 3 with friends, talking about Need for Speed with a friend during physics class, playing Call of Duty with my cousin, and so on. The Xbox 360 was easily one of my favorite consoles, and I'll always remember it for that.

Sadly, even though the Xbox 360 was a great console, it wasn't something I stuck with the entire time. The PlayStation 3 also had exclusives I wanted (so I bought one), and over time more and more games shifted towards it instead. Valkyria Chronicles was exclusive, Star Ocean 4 got an improved PS3 version, and exclusive content became a thing. Later it came to the point where there wasn't much of a reason to own the 360 version of a game over the PS3 version, and I too slowly started to switch over to the PS3. I rebought and rented some of my old 360 games for it (such as Final Fantasy XIII), I bought every exclusive released, and when my 360's disc drive went out I started buying every multiplatform release for it as well. Near the end, after dominating for nearly it's entire life, the Xbox 360 slowed down, and the PlayStation 3 finally pulled ahead. It was a shocking twist not many saw coming, but that's the way things are still to this day. With the PlayStation 4 in the lead, the Xbox One is still living in the shadow of it's predecessor... Of course things are getting better for it over time, but it'll be quite some time before it reaches the level of the 360 -- assuming it ever does that is.

Even so, looking back to 10 years ago (well, 7 for me) will always remind me of happy times, and it gives me hope that one day things will return to how they once were. Even though I'm primarily a PlayStation console gamer now, the Xbox will always be special to me, and I will continue to play it's games.

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