I'm a dude. I play games. And complain about things. And argue. A lot. From time to time I say interesting shit you might find interesting. So maybe read it and tell me what you think because I don't know.
While I don't think the Vita should try and match the 3DS in the boxed retail space, I don't think there's any denying that the system could use a little more in the way of "AAA" titles. While 2013 was good to the Vita with releases like Sly Cooper, Rayman, Killzone, Tearaway, and a number of major Easterntitles, 2014 is looking a bit bare. Gravity Rush 2, Soul Sacrifice Delta, and the rumored Sly 5 are on the horizon, but the rest of the Vita's major releases are mostly Eastern titles, leaving those in the West with less to look forward to.
We've got a ton of these, but where's the retail push from Sony?
I like the unique spot the Vita has carved out for itself, mixing a dedicated handheld with physical games, smaller digital titles, and companion features with the PS3 and PS4, but I certainly wouldn't mind more major releases from Sony and its partners either. In the past, Sony has looked to their popular console franchises to create portablespinoffs from. While these games are oftentimes quality, they rarely create the same level of enthusiasm from gamers as the core titles, many of whom are too busy playing these console installments in the first place.
Instead, Sony should look to the Playstation back catalog for future Vita titles. Franchises that haven't been touched in a while, or simply haven't been given the love and attention they deserve. Franchises that are stylized, wouldn't cost a ton to develop, and would fit the Vita well. Here are four ideas on where they should start:
1) Jak and Daxter Series (3D Action Platformer) -Developers: Naughty Dog, Ready at Dawn, High Impact
-Last Installment: The Lost Frontier (PS2/PSP - Nov 2009)
One third of the trio that helped define the Playstation 2.
Status: Ratchet & Clank has continued to see almost yearlyinstallments since its inception in 2002, and Sanzaru is now in charge of the Sly Cooper franchise. So what happened to Sony's other iconic PS2 plaformer? After Naughty Dog finished Jak 3 in 2004, then newly formed studio Ready at Dawn went on to develop the excellent Daxter spin off for PSP in 2006. While they have since moved on as well, High Impact Games (the developer of two Ratchet spin offs) went on to create a fourth Jak platformer, albeit one that wasn't up to snuff with its predecessors.
Future: There are currently no plans to make a fifth Jak and Daxter platformer. While Naughty Dog toyed around with the idea of a Jak reboot when they split their studio in 2009, that team instead went on to make something very different. It is currently unknown what they are making now. High Impact is mostly doing licensed and mobile games, but I'm sure they'd jump at the chance to make another high profile sequel in a major Sony franchise. The Jak brand still has weight with consumers, and a new game with the right resources could really give the Vita a new killer app. If need be, there's no reason why Sony couldn't make this a dual Vita/PS4 release like they're doing with Sly now, making them Cross Buy and selling the latter at a discounted price.
Ever since that PS1 Demo Disc, I've been sold on this series. Where's my new sequel?
Status: This has never been one of Sony's biggest franchises. Across three installments, the series has only managed to move about 2M units at retail, but has generally reviewed well and has been fondly remembered by many fans and games writers. Studio Cambridge (now a sister developer of Guerrilla Games), created two titles on PS1, the latter of which released right after the PS2's Japanese launch. The original was remade for the PSP, but it was less well received than the original.
Future: Without the brand recognition of some of Sony's other franchises, MediEvil has been a bit neglected over the years. Apparently, Sony did have plans for a new installment on PS3, PSP, or potentially both, but nothing ever came of it. Guerrilla Cambridge just finished Killzone: Mercenary on Vita, and would now be available to make a new game in this series. More so than anything, I think this game would help show that Sony cares about more than a handful of bankable franchises, and that the Vita is and rightfully should be the place for more obscure, interesting games like this.
3) LocoRoco Series (2D Platformer) -Developer: Japan Studio
-Last Installment: Midnight Carnival (PSP/Android - Oct 2009)
Potentially the happiest game of the seventh generation.
Status: The first LocoRoco was an early PSP title, and while it didn't sell incredibly well, I think most people remember this series for its colorful art style, upbeat music, and simple, laid back gameplay. While it might not have done very well as a $40 product, its more reasonably priced sequel and spin off did a little better. The similarly priced PSP game Patapon, which is also known for its delightful art style and music, largely went on to replace LocoRoco in Sony's portable software lineup.
Future: As it stands, there isn't any news about a new LocoRoco game. Patapon 3 was finished in 2011, and Studio Japan has since worked on a number of other solo and collaborative efforts, including a handful of newVitagames. This team is big, and they could easily form a studio to develop a new LocoRoco at any point. Could a game like this be done on consoles? Sure. But it works best on handhelds. It's cute, it's bite sized, and (optional) tilt controls could be a great addition to the series.
Huh? 1080° and Wave Race? Were you deprived as a child?
Status: While Sony made a numberofattempts at creating arcade racers on the PS1, these are probably the two which are most memorable. Cool Boarders helped usher in a wave of action sports games into the industry, while Jet Moto helped prove what 3D could really do for racing games. Both franchises saw five and three installments, respectively. While hardly critical darlings, both series proved to be strong financial successes early on for Sony, and helped cement Playstation's image of being a game system instead of a "toy".
Future: The original team that worked on Cool Boarders 1&2 has since closed, while the developer who did the latter three games (Idol Minds) has moved onto smaller titles and ports. Sony hasn't touched the franchise since. Both teams behind Jet Moto have closed their doors, with twoattempts at reboots failing to be completed. Big budget games in either franchises probably wouldn't survive today, but a small Wipeout 2048 style sequel could absolutely work on the Vita. Both Idol Minds and SD Studio (who were formed from the remnants of 989 Sports), could work on a new installment in either franchise. Both series could work great as a dual Vita/PS4 release with Cross Play, and would help bring back some of that '90s Playstation nostalgia and enthusiasm.
-PaRappa the Rapper (Last Seen: PaRappa the Rapper 2 - 2001) Why it would work: Few PS1 games have the cult following that PaRappa does. Like MediEvil, it never sold particularly well back in the day, but it was well reviewed and much beloved. This probably isn't a franchise you reboot with a $60 PS4 game, but I think it could work well on Vita, maybe as a download only title if they wanted to keep it low risk. And honestly, what else in the industry today is like this game?
-Ape Escape (Last Seen: Million Monkeys - 2006) Why it would work: The first game was damn good back in the day, and much like Jak it also sold pretty well. The franchise has had a rough going from there. Recently, Ape Escape has moved away from its platforming roots, and has instead been used for party games on the PSP and PS3. Take the team at Studio Japan behind Ape Escape: On the Move, gather up some of the talent that did the original three, and set them loose on Vita with the same creativity that made Gravity Rush so interesting and enjoyable.
The most surprising thing about these games at the time was their Western appeal.
A Couple Extras:
There's a few other franchises I think might be worth digging up as well. Mark of Kri and Rise of Kasai were two action adventure games on the PS2 which were unfortunately overlooked by a lot of people. SD Studio was behind the original, which was well reviewed at the time. Heavenly Sword falls into a similar situation. Well received, but with the original studio moving onto otherthings, it's laid dormant in Sony's IP vault. It's unlikely that either would get a PS4 installment in favor of a God of War sequel or reboot, both could be good fits for Vita in the right hands. The upcoming Heavenly Sword film leads me to believe that Sony isn't done with the latter franchise quite yet.
Syphon Filter is a game I wanted to put on this list, but opted not to. With Bend Studio moving from Uncharted: Golden Abyss on to a PS4 project, I think the chances of a PS4 Syphon Filter are pretty good. With multiplayer shooters like Unit 13 and Killzone already on Vita, that's probably for the best. On a more obscure note, I think The Getaway or Siren might be a couple interesting franchises to work on. London Studio hasn't done a major game inyears, and Project Siren is scheduled to finish work on a Gravity Rush sequel this year. I'm sure both would enjoy another crack at the franchises they created.
Sony's picks for All-Stars gave me faith these franchises aren't dead.
Over nearly 20 years, Sony has managed to build an incredibly impressive IP catalog. While it hardly puts Nintendo's to shame, there's no denying the fact that their first and second party studios have put out some really incredibly software over the years. For financial and management reasons, some of these franchises get more attention than others. While the big blockbuster titles are more suited to the console experience, I think the Vita is a great place to take risks and do some interesting stuff with Sony's back catalog. And maybe create a couple new things along the way too.
What about you guys? What Sony franchises would you love to see on the Vita, and what classic IPs would you love to see make a comeback? Feel free to throw your two cents in the comments! And if you like what you read, show support and give a fellow blogger an upvote. Cause that would just warm my cold heart. Honest.
If you haven't seen it by now, Nintendo has updated their financial forecasts for fiscal 2014 (04/01/13 to 03/31/14). Things are... well they're not looking good. At the beginning of last year, expecting to sell 9M WiiUs after a relatively strong launch and a solid start to 2013 seemed perfectly reasonable. Yesterday, Nintendo cut that estimate down to a mere 2.8M units, and their expected 55 billion yen ($527M) profit became a 25 billion yen ($240M) loss.
I'm sorry, Mario. You deserved better, my Italian friend.
There's no good way to spin this story. There's no bright side here. It's bad news all around. The WiiU isn't selling as well as they hoped (or well at all), and Pikmin, Zelda, and Mario weren't the holiday sales trifecta they were banking on. So what now? As much as some would like to think that the WiiU will have a miraculous 3DS-esque comeback out of no where just because Nintendo is so awesome and we all love them so very, very much, I don't think that's reasonable to expect. The two situations are more dissimilar than they are alike, contrary to popular belief. Others think that only Nintendo knows what's best for Nintendo (because clearly that strategy is working so far with the WiiU). I disagree.
I love Nintendo (really I swear), but I think they need some help. Here's my (at least) semi-educated suggestions on how they can turn this ship around:
Step 1) Forget about the third parties. They're gone.
These guys aren't coming back. Learn to live without them.
If Nintendo was smart, they would have entered the 8th console generation fully aware of the fact that the casual audience which supported them with the Wii was never going to follow them to the WiiU. That ship has sailed, and the smartest thing they could have done from here was to get the core audience back. Get mature, adult games like Far Cry, Hitman, Dishonored, XCOM, Borderlands, and Sleeping Dogs. Get an online infrastructure that was on par with the competition. Make a game system for gamers, not soccer moms, small children, and old people.
But where were those titles? Yea, they had some mostly late, mostly overpriced, mostly inferior versions of some 360 and PS3 games, but that's about it. It's easy to blame the publishers for that, but if Nintendo was serious about bringing those partners to their console and making money with them, they should have put their own money down to make sure that poor support didn't happen. That's how investment works. The Nintendo faithful criticize that suggestion, but it's exactly what they did on the Gamecube with Sega, Capcom, Konami, LucasArts, and Namco Bandai. In case you forgot, that console was profitable.
Instead, we're here. The WiiU isn't getting a port of every AAA retail game coming to PS3 and 360 from every major publisher (or really any of them at this point). They don't have an online infrastructure that's up to par with Xbox Live, PSN, or Steamworks. They didn't tap the N64 nostalgia that so many people grew up on. They didn't manage to capitalize on their year head start. The ship has sailed, the PS4 and XB1 are here, and those publishers aren't going to make WiiU games anymore. But someone else might...
Step 2) Indies, though? Get those guys. Like all of them.
How in the fuck is this game not on a Nintendo platform?
This is an entirely different story, however. Few publishers think it's worth teaching an entire team how to use the WiiU just to port their new PS3 and 360 games for as long as they keep making them (1-2 years, at best). Even fewer are going to dedicate time and money on top of that to scaling down their PS4 and XB1 games once they drop their predecessors. Unless of course the WiiU has an enormous rise in hardware sales and suddenly things are back to where they were with the Wii.
But let's assume that's not going to happen. Because let's be honest, it probably won't. Luckily, Nintendo might not need the third parties as much as they think. When it comes to the indie scene on PC, 9 out of 10 games will run on just about anything. Suddenly, the PS4, XB1, and the highest of high end PCs are all your technical contemporaries for all intents and purposes. This is the sector Nintendo needs to be going after with all their energy. To be fair, they're doing a better job than Microsoft is, but Sony's got them beat by a mile right now. If it's small, if it's indie, if it's retro, it needs to be on the WiiU.
These are the types of small experiences that can hold people over between the Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and (for the love of god, please let there be some) Metroid games. They're inexpensive, they often have low barriers to entry, and they can add a lot of value to a platform if marketed and priced correctly. Which brings me to my next point...
Step 3) Virtual Console is a disaster. Fix that shit already.
I'm sorry, but as long as this is a thing, you can't charge $10 for Earthbound.
As much as Nintendo (and some of their fans) would like to think they exist in a bubble, they don't. PS Classics, GOG, and Steam are all real things that exist in real life. So long as they do, Virtual Console has direct competition. The Nintendo faithful will happily buy the same games over and over again until the end of time. They're dedicated, and that's great for them, but they represent a tiny, tiny segment of the industry. Clearly Nintendo cannot live off the diehards anymore. Look at their financials and the WiiU installed base.
If you tried to sell a digital 20 year old game to the average core gamer for $10, they'd laugh in your face. We make excuses for Earthbound because they had to fix what they intentionally broke in the game to try and fight piracy, or that the cartridge costs a fortune today because they never made enough copies in the first place. It's stupid, it's tiresome, and it needs to stop. I'm not saying VC games need to adopt iOS and Android game prices, but the idea of getting the SNES greats for say... $3 a piece would make it incredibly difficult for me not end up matching my 130+ game Steam library. Give me high res support, widescreen fixes, and save states and I go out and buy a WiiU tomorrow. And isn't that exactly what Nintendo needs right now? More people in their ecosystem?
And these Wii to WiiU upgrade fees to VC? Drop and refund them all. The idea of paying money to port a 20-30 year old ROM from one emulator to another is just insulting to my intelligence as a consumer when there is a community on PC that makes better emulators for free. And having to pay again to buy the same NES games on the 3DS? Give me a fucking break. Buy it once, get it everywhere forever. Now that would be a real system seller to anyone who loves the Nintendo classics, and it'd make Sony look like real dicks for dropping PS Classics from the PS4 and under-supporting them on Vita. Plus it'd solve the same problem the indie games would: giving people something to play in between the first party releases. Speaking of which...
Step 4) Milk something other than Mario and Zelda for once.
It's been six plus years, god dammit. WHERE THE HELL IS MY METROID?!
Super Mario 3D World, as critically acclaimed as it is, was not the system seller Nintendo hoped it would be. Neither was their $50 update to a two generation old Zelda game. Nintendo forgets sometimes that they have more than two franchises in their IP catalog. Now I'm not saying put Monolith on an Ice Climbers game or something, but at some point, if you keep milking Mario people are going to stop caring. Honestly, I think we may have hit that point already. New Super Mario has diluted the franchise significantly, and I don't know if that's something that can be remedied by throwing "World" in the title of a 3D Mario and hoping people will forget about that New Super ever happened.
Here's an idea: Retro isn't the only developer you own which could make a new Metroid game. Hell, how about somebody outside of Nintendo who isn't woefully incompetent (*stares at Team Ninja*). If you don't think a gorgeous 3D Metroid game with a great, Prime Hunters style multiplayer would move hardware, you're kidding yourself. The same could be said for a kick ass (and properly marketed) Star Fox game that balanced the on foot Adventures gameplay, the space combat of the first two, and competitive multiplayer styled around Assault (except actually fun). And a good 3D Pokemon. Why the hell isn't that a thing yet? Is Nintendo oblivious to how huge Pokemon is or something?
And finally, the cardinal sin: we're a couple months into the second year of the WiiU and there is still no Super Smash Bros game, let alone a date for one. This is maybe the best example of how Nintendo management has its head up its own ass. And to be completely honest, it makes a really great case for why some of the higher ups need to be let go. The previous Smash game was released at the beginning of 2008. HAL finished work on the last two Kirby games by the middle of 2011. Namco Bandai is a phone call away. The fact that Nintendo thought kissing Sakurai's ass was more important than releasing a sequel in the franchise that basically made the Gamecube a success is just... I have no words for how fucking stupid that is. Smash 4 could have put the WiiU on its back this past holiday. Especially if it was combined with...
Step 5) A $200 WiiU without the GamePad. Do it already.
It's not the Virtual Boy, but it's time to let this dream die already.
In August last year, Nintendo announced the 2DS and the internet freaked out. Some thought it was a joke, others were rushing to pre-order, and some were just concerned about how this was going to be marketed properly given the god awful name and their track record with the WiiU. Well they sure as shit proved me wrong, because the thing was a success. The feature (read: gimmick) that they arrogantly thought they could sell a $250 DS successor on didn't add any value to the product for most consumers. The 2DS was an admission of their failure. A failure which they managed to turn around into a giant success.
And so brings us to the GamePad. I get off screen play. I have a Vita and part of why I'm itching to get a PS4 is so I can sit on the shitter and keep playing my games (or go anywhere in the house and keep playing, for that matter). But forcing people to drop an extra $100 on a system just so they can buy a controller (with an abysmal battery life) which Nintendo themselves aren't even using for anything useful is just dumb. It's bad business, and it's exactly why the PS4 is outselling the XB1 and it's unnecessarily bundled Kinect camera by a very wide margin.
It's great that the WiiU is $100-$200 less than its generational competition, but it's still $100 more than a PS3 or 360. Two platforms with huge and way more varied software libraries. Ones you can get for dirt cheap these days. The value proposition for the WiiU just isn't there. If you wanna keep selling a $300 bundle with the GamePad, more storage, and an extra game, be my guest. But not having a $200 WiiU on store shelves when 360 and PS3 games graphically look the same is just financial suicide on Nintendo's part. If you really want to keep the vision for the GamePad alive, just let gamers use other screened devices with gaming inputs as well. 3DS much? How about the dozen Android alternatives out there? It accomplishes the same goal at a lower cost to you, the platform holder.
Worst case scenario, the WiiU sells 20M units in its lifetime, it gets another great batch of Nintendo games, the system costs Nintendo a couple billion in losses, and they move on to a successor in 2016 or 2017. They have billions in the bank, they can afford it. But no one wants that. I don't want that, the 5M+ people with a WiiU don't want that, Nintendo doesn't want that, and anybody who doesn't want Sony to get complacent like they were after the PS2 doesn't want that. These are a few changes I believe would greatly help them turn things around. This may be a Nintendo Machine. And that's okay. But it would really help, for Nintendo's sake and their ability and desire to continue making great console games in the franchises we love (and a few new ones), if it was a profitable Nintendo Machine.
So while we're playing the "pretend to be a CEO" game, how would you turn things around for Nintendo? Do my suggestions have any merit? Am I bat shit insane? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments. If you like what you've read (or at least enjoy a good discussion about it in the comments), why not upvote the blog because you're such a wonderfully kind human being?
So before you revoke my gamer card, let me explain. In the Summer of 1998, I took a trip with my mom to North Carolina. I was on vacation from school, the man she had been dating for a while had family in NC, so she decided that we'd spend about a week or so down there visiting. I remember very little from this trip. I was barely 6 years old at the time, but there is one memory that stands out very vividly for me as it had a major impact on my life from that point forward. It was the first time I had ever played a video game console before.
Probably an easier decision for me to make than most kids in the '90s.
I remember being absolutely awe stricken the first time I watched somebody playing on a console. At the time, one of the other kids in my daycare had an Original Game Boy and a copy of Super Mario Land (which he was nice enough to let me play a few times), but it never really grabbed me. Visually it was a simple game, technically the Game Boy was a very limited piece of hardware, and let's be honest here: SML is hardly a fantastic Mario installment to begin with. But this? This was different.
I'm not sure which I played first, but the family house we stayed in had both an N64 and a Playstation hooked up to the living room television. One of the boys there was a gamer, and by '98 the prices had come down on hardware (and software) to the point where it was semi-affordable to have both systems. I remember them playing two games which were on the TV pretty frequently: Crash Bandicoot 2 and Mario Kart 64.
Oh the warm memories of getting your ass beat in a series you've never owned.
For the most part, I remember enjoying Mario Kart. I had never even held a controller before, let alone the N64's, so I wasn't very good at it. I mostly feel the same way about that gamepad today. The analog stick was terrible, its lopsided the way you have to hold it, and overall it just wasn't very good for playing anything. Combine that with the fact that this kids were much older than me, and I don't think I ever actually won a race. So that probably had something to do with my generally lukewarm feeling towards the game.
Crash Bandicoot though? Man I loved that game. I only remember playing the the first jungle and snow levels (probably all the time they'd let a 6 year old hog the television for) but I instantly fell in love. The Dualshock's d-pad was fantastic, and Crash's movement was tight and fluid. Killing enemies was fun and rewarding, as was the little pop every time you broke a box or the sound when you collected Wumpa Fruit. I remember sneaking out of the room I slept in there and watching them play the boulder chase and sewer levels and wishing I had a Playstation back home.
Best. Ice levels. Ever.
That Christmas I begged and pleaded for a PS1 and a copy of Crash, and I was lucky enough to get one. A few years later I'd upgrade to a PS2 and PS3 (along with dipping into the Microsoft camp a bit with the Original Xbox and 360), but I've never owned a Nintendo console before aside from a SNES I got at a garage sale years later. So aside from a handful of occasions totally an hour or two at most, I've never actually played Ocarina of Time before (don't worry I was going to come back to this).
My Game Boy copies of Link to the Past/Four Swords, Metroid Fusion, Super Mario Advance 2, Donkey Kong Country, Kirby's Dreamland, and Super Mario Bros. Deluxe cemented my love for the Nintendo greats, but I've played very little of the 3D stuff. Going back and trying some of it now, I've never really liked a lot of the N64 stuff. Mechanically it has a lot of problems, partly because of the controller, partly because of the technology, and partly because it was just very early in 3D game development. So Ocarina was largely something that I picked up, tried, and dropped.
I know OOT was revolutionary, but man that camera control needed work.
In order to rectify my unfamiliarity with what some believe to be the greatest game of all time, my roommates suggested that we start a new file on the N64 that we have hooked up in our living room and collectively play through it. This idea turned into the proposal for a one day marathon session of the game on Reading Day (our break from classes before finals start - I know, really smart of us), and after talking about it for a while I suggested that we live stream it. And that's exactly what we're going to do. (Luckily we were smart enough to push it off a few days and get some actual work done).
On Sunday the 15th starting at about 10am Eastern Time, we'll be live streaming The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on my newly created Twitch channel (below). This will mostly be a straight run of the game, omitting the bulk of the optional side content. My two roommates will be joining me for most of it, and we've invited friends of ours from the area to come by, play for a bit, commentate/bullshit, and hopefully make for an interesting Let's Play.
With any luck, this will be an interesting, semi-insightful, humorous Let's Play, taking inspiration from some of my favorite Youtube LPs such as Game Grumps. Feel free to say hey in the Twitch comment box and say hello if you're watching! :)
EDIT: Happy to say that our livestream was a success. If anybody wants to check it out, the link for the video is below.
Christmas 2003: I've had my PS2 for a year now, and like I did every holiday I asked "Santa" for new video games. So my mom finds a copy of this really terrible licensed Corvette racing game. Probably something she got on the cheap. With her it was always about putting enough shit under the tree so I'd feel like a "normal" kid on Christmas morning. I never cared growing up, especially by that age. You gave me one game and I'd play that motherfucker over and over again if it was fun. Hell, I still remember playing the "PlayStation Interactive CD Sampler Disc Volume 9" until my eyes would literally tear up after a few hours from not blinking enough in Rally Cross 2.
But it made her feel better, so that's what she did. I definitely didn't grow up poor (my mom could afford a luxury like video games after all), but I was aware of the fact that I never had as much as my friends did when I was young. I could tell it always bothered her come Christmas, and she never felt like she could spend as much as she'd want on me. She just couldn't spoil me with all the ridiculous bullshit that my friend's parents could (probably smart in hindsight). So quantity was always better than quality here unless it was something I really begged for. Because of this, I often ended up with really obscure ass video games.
She gets this Corvette game, and in the midst of her always rushed, absolute last minute holiday shopping she completely misses the fact that it was an Xbox game, not a PS2 game. This was very strange for her. Unlike most parents, she was very young (only 19 years my senior), she grew up playing Commodore 64 and Atari 2600, and she knew that not every video game was made for "The Nintendo". Hell, there was a point where she played the PS1 I used to have more than I did. (To this day I resent the fact that at that age she was able to get further than me in Crash Bandicoot 2). So this situation had literally never happened to me before.
I didn't actually get my Xbox 'til the next year (the first console I would ever buy for myself, actually), so at age 11 I had to look this poor woman in the face and sadly explain to her that I couldn't play this really (seemingly) cool racing game because it wouldn't work in the PS2 that her father had bought me last year (Gran Turismo 3 bundle FTW). Never seen her so embarrassed about a gift in her life. And I felt terrible, because I knew it was well intentioned on her part.
So the next day we go back to return it in the midst of this crazy fucking mob of people. Pretty much par the course for any retail outlet on December 26th. We go to the guy behind the register, and after searching the "database" he tells us that they only make this game for Xbox, PC, and Game Boy Advance. Our PC was a god awful circa 1998 HP machine that was nowhere near fit to play modern games, and playing this on the Game Boy (read: my Pokemon machine) seemed pointless. Needless to say, I was a very sad panda.
Little did I know, Steel Monkeys, the developer of the Corvette game, ran into development problems with the PS2 version of the game. This happened in the middle of some licensing issues which had the publisher switching from TDK Mediactive (yes the guys who made cassette tapes back in the day) to Global Star Software (the guys who Take-Two would buy up and put under their casual 2K Play division). If this game doesn't sound like a disaster yet, it should by now. Luckily for me, the PS2 port wasn't completed until March the following year. This game went so far on the shit scale that is actually came back around to save me in the end.
So in a rare kid-in-a-candystore moment in my childhood, I actually got to pick what I wanted from this huge games store. The catch was the price. I had to keep it under $20 (which was apparently what she paid for this game originally). So I immediately ran to the PS2 section and started tearing through their selection, looking for a racing game that looked cool and fit within the budget I was given. What I found was Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit II.
Hot Pursuit II had launched in October of the previous year, and the game had apparently been put on Sony's Greatest Hits line just prior to the holiday season. Seeing that $19.99 sticker, the red labeling around the PlayStation 2 logo at the the top, and that yellow Lamborghini Murcielago on the cover probably made Christmas for me. The hell with 42nd Street. This was a FuncoLand miracle (props to anybody who even knows what the hell that is).
Without taking this really upbeat blog post down a dark path, the last time I had seen or heard from my father prior to this point was about four and a half years earlier. Long story short, he had his fair share of problems, and my parents split (most definitely for the better) when I was much younger than this. But one of the memories I had of visiting him every on the weekends was playing a racing game with cop chases on his computer, which I would later found out was the first Hot Pursuit game. I don't know if I was conscious of this connection at the time. Maybe it wast just a coincidence. The franchise was huge, after all. But for whatever reason, the second I saw this game, I knew I had to have it.
The rest, as they say, is history. I remember working my way up the race pyramid, beating challenge after challenge, unlocking all the coolest cars in the game (whatchu know 'bout that McLaren F1, doe?). I remember going to my friends house and playing split screen free run for hours, just going in circles trying to escape the cops, calling out road blocks and spike strips every time we'd see one (or hit one). While Burnout 3 is a close second, this game is, in my opinion, the greatest arcade racer of all time.
I made this blog post for a few reasons. First, my roommate is bringing his old PS2 back with him to our apartment after Thanksgiving break, and my plan is to track down an old copy of this game and play it for the first time since I was in Middle School. Second, is that the recent release of Need for Speed Rivals has reminded me of how far these games have strayed from what made them so awesome. In focusing so much on "social connectivity", they've completely neglected what made them fun: tight controls, great cop chases, and split screen play. Third, it's almost Christmas time!
Hope you guys enjoyed this. With any luck, I'll have another one of these up soon.