For those who don’t know, the sixth generation of consoles consists of the Sony PlayStation 2, Nintendo GameCube, Microsoft Xbox, and Sega Dreamcast. Also, to be clear, I’ll be talking about the home consoles only so handheld devices like the Game Boy Advance and N-Gage won’t be mentioned and neither will PC gaming. The sixth generation of consoles has always been a bit of a love/hate situation with me. Nonetheless there are great things about these consoles that we still are appreciating today. So lets take a look at eight of the greatest concepts the PS2, Xbox, Gamecube and Dreamcast gave us. These are in no particular order, FYI.
Open World Games
Although the concept wasn’t new as titles like Body Harvest had sown the seeds in the previous generation, the genre flourished in this generation and none were bigger than the Grand Theft Auto series. Again, the series started in the previous generation on the the original PlayStation and PC. However, Grand Theft Auto III changed everything and soon we were bombarded with open world games. Sure some of them weren’t great like Mafia, The Getaway, or the Scarface game but others took the GTA formula and showcased it in different ways. Games like The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, Yakuza, and Bully were great games and even titles like The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, Midnight Club II, and Mercenaries were deviations that diversified what an open world title could be. Open world titles opened the gates for less linear experiences today and it’s only because of titles like Shenmue, Fable and we have games like Sleeping Dogs, Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning and Red Dead Redemption.
Before the year 2000, online gaming was this strange, complicated thing hardcore PC gamers did from time to time. Flash forward to now and almost every game released on the consoles has some kind of online component. Why is that? Three words: Phantasy Star Online. The Sega Dreamcast’s built in dial-up modem allowed anyone to connect to the internet to play games on and one of the most popular games that used this technology was Phantasy Star Online. Socializing with people online and going on quests together was mind blowing at the time. Microsoft then took this idea and made it more for competition than socializing with Xbox Live. Games like MechAssault, Unreal Championship and Halo 2 became big hits online, laying the foundation of what online gaming is today with Call of Duty. Sony had some success with titles like SOCOM as well. Today all the major consoles have these massive online infrastructures and it’s due to the example Microsoft stared the generation before and the idea Sega put in place.
First Person Shooters on Consoles
Playing first person shooters on consoles used to be a miserable embarrassment No one could get it right. Even shooters like Goldeneye 007 and Turok were compromised experiences of shooters we got on the PC. Halo changed that. Halo showed how a first person shooter could be done on a controller as opposed to a keyboard and mouse and this opened a whole new genre to console gamers. FPS started taking over the market and by the time the Xbox 360 was released in 2005, shooters had become the dominant genre. Now games that diversify on the FPS formula like BioShock are welcome on consoles thanks to a sensible framework established one generation before by Halo.
Many of the biggest franchises today in gaming were started during the sixth generation. Devil May Cry, Ratchet & Clank, and Halo are just a few of the franchises we paid big bucks for back then and still are now. Not since the original NES have so many franchises been continued successfully into a new generation. This is a testament to the strength of these games to resonate with so many people for so long. In comparison, the Crash Bandicoot series from the fifth generation has been all but abandoned as of right now. Final Fight from the fourth generation has seen better times. I don’t remember the last time I saw a Defender game. Many titles from the last generation have had staying power and it’s by and large due to our next point.
Gaming Became Mainstream
The sixth generation of consoles was when gaming finally became mainstream. Before, gaming was only for kids and were considered to be toys. Gaming was thought to be only for nerds and fat people with no social skills. During the sixth generation, game releases became media events. The news showed lines of people eagerly awaiting the new Grand Theft Auto game. TV specials were made in time for the release of Halo 2. Video games were now on the popularity level of movies or music and was no longer seen as a niche market. This has carried over to now and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 is now the biggest selling media product of all time, topping anything from the movies or music industry. We’ve come a long way, baby.
Today video game consoles aren’t just for video games. Today you can also use them to watch movies on Netflix, TV shows on Hulu Plus and web shows on YouTube, among other things. Now the sixth generation didn’t start this idea of video games being multipurpose. Most if not all of the CD based consoles of the early to mid 90s could also play music CDs. However, never before had a video game console’s multimedia capabilities been a major selling point. The PlayStation 2 sold so many units during its infancy due to it being the cheapest DVD player you could get at the time. Sega pushed the Dreamcast’s built-in modem by giving out web browsers so you can surf the internet on a TV. The Xbox allowed you to import your own music into games by letting you rip your CDs onto the Xbox’s hard drive. It may have been possible before but the sixth generation consoles gave the hardware companies reason to put these features into home consoles and that’s why our video game consoles are now more akin to home media entertainment devices.
We were very nostalgic for the past in the sixth generation. There were a lot of games even the past generations inspired by titles from generations before. However, on the Xbox, Gamecube and PlayStation 2 alone, we got so many wonderful collections and I know I was introduced to and reminded of many games because of them. Just to name a few we got the Midway Arcade Collections Part 1, 2 and 3, Sonic Mega Collection, Intellevision Lives!, Taito Legends, and Street Fighter Alpha Anthology. Even if for whatever reason you were not enjoying some of the new releases coming out that generation, you could get a collection of games from yesteryear to enjoy. What’s more is you could play games you probably couldn’t before. I played the King of Fighters series for the first time on the PlayStation 2 thanks to the King of Fighters 2000/2001 collection. I played and fell in love with Shining Force and Phantasy Star II thanks to the Sega Smash Pack on the Dreamcast. Nowadays we don’t get collections but we do get a lot of releases on the digital stores Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network. It’s good to know nostalgia is alive and well.
The Sega Dreamcast
The Sega Dreamcast is one of my favorite consoles of all time. The Sega Dreamcast is one of the favorite consoles of all time for a lot of people. The Sega Dreamcast was no one’s favorite console at the time of its release. That’s why it was discontinued after only two years. Still, in only two years, the console had titles that are still enjoyable to this day. With re-releases of Dreamcast titles only really kicking in now, over ten years since its release, it’s still the best thing the sixth generation of consoles had to offer. Want a platformer? Here’s Rayman 2, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver and Sonic Adventure. Want a racing game? Here’s Sega GT, Speed Devils and Daytona USA. How about a fighting game? Street Fighter III Third Strike, Fatal Fury Mark of the Wolves, and SoulCalibur have got you covered. Like RPGs? Grandia II, Evolution and Skies of Arcadia are great choices. Want some crazy ass creative title? Here’s Space Channel 5, Samba de Amigo and Seaman. I could go on forever but I digress. Despite the strides the Xbox, PS2 and Gamecube made, no other system had as many great and diverse games as the Dreamcast. Throw in the awesome VMU memory cards, the online capabilities, and the four player availability right out of the box and its easily my favorite console of the sixth generation. Not to mention that it also set in motion many of the concepts that Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo would utilize in their consoles, such as creative titles, online play and peripheral connectivity.
What are you favorite things about the sixth generation of consoles? Tell me in the comments below and be sure to come back to chill out in the Fanboy Corner.