How would an original XBox with component cables look on a modern TV? Would it display correctly in 4:3 aspect ratio?
I don't have an original Xbox, but I have a PlayStation 2 with component cables (it also does 480p) - it depends on the game and the TV as to what you get. Some games on PS2 can be set to 16:9 (and are indeed rendered for WS), and if I remember right the Xbox also supported that. On the TV side, it depends on the TV's input processing capabilities. On both of my HDTVs I can set them to "Normal" which will mean 4:3 from 480i/480p, or "Wide" which will get the correct 16:9 AR (same settings used for anamorphic output on a DVD player). I would assume some TVs offer more or less options in that regard.
Question: How does the top Geforce3 stack up against the Geforce4 in this game? Was the Ti500 the fastest one? Would love to test it.
No idea about this game specifically, but GeForce 4 Ti is generally much faster (better PS/VS support too). The original GeForce 3 or the Ti 500 will be the fastest options (the Ti series came out later, along with the GeForce 4 Ti, as the "new midrange" for nVidia in late 2001/early 2002). Ti 4400 or better should be faster hands down.
Could it be that my FX5950 Ultra is a bit faulty? Are these two cards based on the same chip?
Not directly, no. The FX 5500 is NV34B, which is derived from the FX 5200 (NV34), which was part of the "original FX" lineup that included the FX 5600 and 5800. The 5950 is a revision of NV35 (FX 5900), which had changes/improvements made to the PS/VS engines to increase performance for SM2.0 titles.
This review contains some information about the NV30->NV35 changes:
They're similar, but the 5500 is not just a "cut down" 5950 as far as I understand. No idea if your specific card is faulty - I'd expect other issues if it were though, like random crashes/locks, artifacts, etc.
So yea, if someone could test this with another FX 5950 Ultra that would be awesome 😀
Is there a demo version of this game that I could test out for you? 😀