Xbox Hodgepodge – Sequels: Castlevania Curse of Darkness, Dead or Alive 3, The Elder Scrolls 3 Morrowind (Game of the Year Edition), Ninja Gaiden, Oddworld Stranger’s Wrath

Who doesn’t like a good sequel? Sometimes those sequels can become more popular and better received than the originals they were derived from. The “Grand Theft Auto” series immediately comes to mind as it was the third installment of that franchise that really catapulted it to massive success. Sequels also tend to be a safer bet for consumers if they utilize the same developers, gameplay mechanics and characters, but as the consoles evolve, a well-known franchise can lose a bit of what made it popular in the first place. Failing to capture the same feel, dynamics and most importantly, near flaw-less gameplay can make gamers lose faith in a franchise quickly. “Castlevania” is a franchise that has had a lot of success over the past few decades on both consoles and handhelds, but that is typically only when the games are of the 2D variety. 3D “Castlevania” games in the past have been a mixed bag since the first one was released for the Nintendo 64. Like “Lament of Innocence” on the PlayStation 2, “Curse of Darkness” is a pretty lackluster 3D “Castlevania” in terms of gameplay despite it looking awfully nice and will not likely sell anyone that this franchise excels in 3D.

“Ninja Gaiden” is another 8-bit and arcade franchise that saw a rebirth in the 21st century on the Xbox. The original three NES titles were well known for their high level of difficulty and even in the 3D realm, “Ninja Gaiden” is equally known for it’s difficulty. Tecmo certainly got that part right! Truth be told, “Ninja Gaiden” is a very nice looking and mostly enjoyble game if you can get past the difficulty level. A strong re-entry into the 3D action-platformer genre, this is a much more violent and graphic version of “Ninja Gaiden” that what you recall from the 80s/90s but had the ability to win over new gamers used to such gore and gameplay.

“Dead or Alive 3” was one of the launch titles for Xbox back in 2001 and it was one of the best available for the genre. “DOA3” remains a solid entry in the fighting series that got its start on the PlayStation and Saturn. Well known for gratuitous depictions of its female characters endowments, the game is not just nice to look at but also fun to play. I can only imagine how impressed early Xbox owners were with the visuals behind this launch title as “DOA3” holds up as one of the best fighters for the console. I’ve never been the world’s biggest fighting game fan but I always have fun playing “DOA3” due to its fluid controls, ease to pick up and play, and of course, the visuals.

“Oddworld” is another title that saw its origins on the PlayStation and this entry into the series, “Strangers Wrath” is a “do-over” of the franchise turning it into a first person shooter. I never was  fan of or really played any of the previous “Oddworld” games, including “Munch’s Odyssee”, which was an early Xbox release, so “Stranger’s Wrath” wasn’t something I was too excited about when it was released late in the Xbox’s life cycle in 2006. Overall, as an FPS, it’s not a bad title, just maybe not my cup of tea. It certainly has charm and fits the description of the word “odd”. If you haven’t checked this one out, be prepared for some interesting gameplay that involves shooting little furry creatures out of your gun. For real.

“The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind” marks this long running series first venture onto home consoles after the first two PC exclusives. An open world action, fantasy, role-playing game, “Morrowind” won multiple game of the year awards in 2002. I will be the first to tell you that “Morrowind” isn’t exactly my style of game either and as a result, I have never played this game. I only bought a used copy years ago due to the awards and praise it had received but from what I’ve ready, “Morrowind” doesn’t necessarily focus as much on advancing the game’s plot as it just doing what you do in open world games….which is…I’m not sure. People seem to like this one and the games in the series that came after it such as “Oblivion” and “Skyrim” so I’ll just leave it at that.

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