Xbox 360 backward compatibility on Xbox One is a fantastic feature that benefits everybody: developers, publishers, platform holders and, most importantly, gamers. It has helped the Xbox brand recover after its initial, disastrous launch.
While millions of people playing on Xbox Live are enjoying their Xbox 360 titles, a growing number of Xbox owners want something more–backward compatibility with original Xbox titles.
Microsoft has remained coy on the issue. Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, once tweeted that while he was aware of the demand for Xbox backward compatibility, it was not currently something in the pipeline. The Xbox 360 was able to play original Xbox discs. It is not entirely unthinkable since the Xbox One is fully able to emulate an Xbox 360 and Xbox 360 games, that there is plenty of power and resources that Microsoft could make that happen.
Instead, Microsoft has decided to re-release older titles with a bit of a facelift. The following five games are all titles that debuted on the original Xbox but now run in higher framerates with better resolution on Xbox One.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The first Halo game ever released and the “killer app” for the original Xbox. Halo: Combat Evolved took a console from Microsoft, which many in the gaming industry through was irrelevant before it launched, and turned the Xbox brand into a household name.
Naturally, Xbox’s first hit needs to be available on every Xbox system.
This version of Halo 1 is unique though. On the Xbox 360, it appeared as Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary; a remake of the original. What made the Halo remake in 2011 different was the option to switch graphics between the original 2001 version and the newer 2011 version.
In 2014, Microsoft released Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a collection of Halo 1, 2, 3, and 4 that offered full Xbox Live multiplayer for all four games. The Halo 1 version included in the Master Chief Collection is the 2011 Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary edition.
Although the Master Chief Collection has its share of bugs and glitches, it is still the quickest and easiest way to play the original classic that launched Xbox into the stratosphere on Xbox One.
Halo 2, the best-selling original Xbox title, received the same remake treatment Halo: Combat Evolved did.
The showcase of the Master Chief Collection, Halo 2Anniversary features full Xbox Live multiplayer, remade maps, entirely recreated CG cut scenes by Blur Studios, and enhanced textures, resolution, and frame rate. It also features the ability to switch between the original Xbox graphics and the newer, more impressive Xbox One graphics.
Like many games on the Master Chief Collection, the game runs with its share of bugs. Lead developer 343 Industries has tried to piece the game back together through patches, but the entire game still suffers from frustrating glitches, especially in multiplayer.
The good news is the campaign runs and looks extremely impressive. Issues aside, it is still the best way to play Halo 2 today.
Phantom Dust is by far the oddest of games on this list. A relatively unknown, original Xbox title, it had mild critical acclaim and almost no commercial success.
So why is it one of the few original Xbox games that have been remastered for Xbox One?
What it does have is a hardcore, cult following that has seemingly begged Microsoft years for a reboot or remake. At the 2014 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), Microsoft showed that a new Phantom Dust was in development. Without sharing any significant details, all signs pointed to a complete remake of the original game. The version of Phantom Dust on Xbox One and Windows 10 is an entirely different game than what was shown at E3 2014.
So what changed?
Development of Phantom Dust was difficult. The developer and Microsoft had struggles about seemingly everything; development time, budget, gameplay, and even the concept of the game itself. The development was such a disaster that Microsoft canceled the original version of the Phantom Dust, forcing developer Darkside Game Studios to lay off employees and eventually close.
The version of Phantom Dust released on the Xbox and Windows Store today is a simple remaster, reusing the original title’s textures and assets. While not the same as the game shown at E3 2014, the released version of Phantom Dust is a solid version of the original 2005 card-based, strategy, action game.
While Phantom Dust has clearly been a struggle for Microsoft to finish, all Phantom Dust fans and Xbox gamers can enjoy the remaster since the game is available free on the Xbox and Windows Store.
Grabbed by the Ghoulies
Grabbed by the Ghoulies is sold as a larger collection of games, similar to Halo 1 and Halo 2 above.
In 2015, Microsoft developer Rare celebrated their 30th anniversary by releasing a collection of some of their greatest games during their 30 years of making games. The collection, Rare Replay, contains Rare’s sole original Xbox game.
Game reviewers criticized the game for being too simple and easy. For many, Grabbed by the Ghoulies remains popular. Seen as the creative peak for not just Rare, but all of Microsoft Studios, many people hope Microsoft will return to creating new intellectual property and franchises.
During the original Xbox’s gaming generation, colorful and cartoony platforming games were very popular. The success of Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, Spyro the Dragon, and Crash Bandicoot made every publisher and platform holder want their own cartoon mascot. Microsoft was no different.
The original Xbox was home to many first-party platforming games, each trying to cast them as the unofficial/official mascot of the Xbox brand.
Voodoo Vince was one of those games.
Originally released in 2003, Voodoo Vince has received a cult following. Its quirky characters, humor and fantastic soundtrack made it memorable to the small number of people who purchased it when it launched. In today’s gaming climate, classic platforming games have made a comeback.
Games like Super Mario 3D World, Super Mario Maker and Yooka-Laylee have made bright and colorful mascot platformers all the rage again.
Why Voodoo Vince of all games?
Voodoo Vince has many fans, including Head of Xbox Phil Spencer. Many believe Voodoo Vince and Phantom Dust are Microsoft testing the waters to gauge Xbox user’s interest in original Xbox titles.
The Xbox division at Microsoft has made it clear that they want backward and forward compatibility in all current and future titles. Despite that pledge, it is unclear that whether Microsoft will open the Xbox One and future systems to play original Xbox games.
Until then, it appears they will continue that trend and the five games above will need to fill gamer’s classic Xbox appetites for more games.