Category Archives: 1997

#50: Colony Wars

Format: Playstation Genre: Space Combat Simulator Released: 1997 Developer: Psygnosis

Plot or story seems to be seen by many developers as the most unimportant aspect of a video game. How many games can you think of with a well thought out, interesting and gripping plot? Cut scenes that you don’t skip but actually enjoy watching? Characters that act in a believable and convincing way considering the environment they are in? Not many is it? Even games which I love like, well, the C&C series or the Resident Evil games… You may enjoy them but the stories don’t really make sense.

Colony Wars Box Art

I’m sure there are others but right now the only game plots I can remember actually enjoying are the first Spider-Man game on the Playstation (a story which could have come straight out of the comics) and the game I’m here to talk about today – Colony Wars.

Now I’m not suggesting Colony Wars had the most original of plots. Indeed the ‘Colonies breaking away from the despotic Earth Empire – it’s like the American War of Independence, but in space’ thing has been done a thousand times. But what Colony Wars did do was invest time in building it’s universe.

The developers had obviously sat down and carefully thought about the look, feel and history of the universe they had created. There was an in game database which went into detail about the Earth Empire, the League of Free Worlds, the spacecraft in the game and the various star systems and worlds that you come across while playing. In fact there were even histories of worlds you didn’t come into contact with. You didn’t need to know any of this information to play, but just having it there helped sell the story. References to the ‘Battle of Bennay’, the colonisation of Alpha Centauri and so on really enriched the playing experience.

She cannae take much more o' this cap'n!

The story also changed depending on how well you did in the game. There wasn’t one path to victory and there were multiple endings, everything from the League being totally crushed by the Earth Empire, to an uneasy truce, to the League conquering Earth. Not only did this offer lots of opportunity for replay, but you felt that your actions were having a tangible impact on this universe.

In terms of game play it was good fun, though could get a bit samey. This is why a good plot helped so much. I was willing to plow through the occasional dull level as I was eager to see the next cut scene! Imagine that.

While playing you would receive various radio transmissions and updates which made you feel part of a larger force.

Colony Wars had two sequels, the first being Colony Wars Vengeance, with player as a pilot for the defeated Earth Empire. Again, a great, a very dark plot with a similar ‘multiple paths/endings’ structure. The last game, Colony Wars Red Sun, was ok. It had some good ideas but it illustrated how important the stories were to the previous games, as Red Sun’s story didn’t work as well (I certainly can’t remember it now).

So yes, an underrated classic in my opinion. And the Emperor of Earth called himself the Tsar. How cool is that?

Ian

P.S. Apologies for the German video below, it’s the only one I could find of in game footage.

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Filed under 1997, Playstation, Psygnosis, Space Combat Simulator

#16: GoldenEye 007

Format: Nintendo 64 Genre: First Person Shooter Released: 1997 Developer: Rare

Facility level + Licence to Kill mode + Pistols only = Best multiplayer game ever? Discuss. 

goldeneye_box

The thing that most impressed about GoldenEye was just how far ahead of its time it was in terms of gameplay features, such as the huge weapon set, the cleverly designed levels and the sheer range of multiplayer options. When you compare it to the other first person shooters (FPSs) that came out on the N64 in 1997 – Doom 64, Hexen, Duke Nukem 64, Turok – it’s clear that GoldenEye was just leaps and bounds ahead of the opposition. It’s all the more astonishing, therefore, to learn that the multiplayer mode was added as ‘a complete afterthought’.

goldeneye-cave

I think the most staggering achievement of this game is that it’s actually impossible to get bored of it. OK, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but I dread to think just how many nights of my teenage years were consumed by marathon GoldenEye sessions. If GoldenEye were to appear on Xbox Live Arcade (XBLA) tomorrow (which is unlikely to happen for various reasons), I’m sure that it would garner just as many online players as some of the more recent FPS efforts, like Call of Duty. Actually, I really hope that GoldenEye doesn’t appear on XBLA – I spend enough time playing video games as it is, and XBLA GoldenEye might just send me over the edge into game zombie oblivion.

goldeneye-map-room

The more I write about this game, the more I want to play it again. There are just so many stand-out moments: such as lacing the toilets in the Facility level with mines, then gleefully detonating them when your hapless opponent walks in. Or fighting over who gets to play Oddjob in multiplayer (he’s so short, it’s almost impossible to hit him). Or playing with rocket launchers only on the miniscule Archives level. Or shooting an enemy agent in the balls and watching him crumple to the ground clutching his groin (puerile admittedly, but fun nonetheless). Or cathartically executing Natalya after she gets lost for the umpteenth time (it means a Game Over screen, but it’s worth it). Or annoying the hell out of your best friend by consistently defeating him with a karate chop to the back of the head (in the game that is, not in real life).

goldenye_four_player

I could go on, but I think it’s better if you just watch the video below and relive the memories yourself.

Facility level.

Licence to Kill mode.

Pistols only.

It doesn’t get any better than this.

Lewis

 

PS. I couldn’t end  this post without mentioning the brilliant ‘GoldenApple’ spoof that was filmed by the GamesMaster and NGamer magazines – watch it for yourself below:

And if you liked that, the ‘GoldenEye Facility Remix’ is also worth a look:

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Filed under 1997, First Person Shooter, Nintendo 64, Rare

#15: Time Crisis

Format: Coin-Op/Playstation Genre: Light Gun Game Released: 1995/1997 Developer: Namco

There’s a simple reason that Time Crisis made my life slightly better – if, in the event of some sort of apocalypse, I was forced into the position where I would need to defend my homestead against invasion, the lightning-quick sharp-shooting skills I learned from this game will surely be more than enough to repel any maruading zombies/aliens/angry Belgians. My acquired ability to pick off multiple foes in quick succession, punctuated by brief dives for cover, will undoubtedly serve me well in any situation where I am required to return small arms fire whilst conserving ammunition – basically, if there’s only one gun in the bunker and the men in blue suits are hammering down the door, just leave it to me. Job done.

time_crisis_cover1

There really is nothing quite like gunning down a small army of colour-coded international terrorists to brighten up your day. Despite the constant repetition, I never seem to tire of this game; in fact, knowing exactly where and when every single little hapless blue guy will pop out is almost comforting. It’s a warm familarity, like a dog-eared, stain-covered, favourite jacket for which each stain has its own personal story.

time-crisis-screenshot-1

I’m going to stick my geek hat on here (it’s the one with the flappy ear muffs) and tell you the extent of the misplaced devotion I have given to this game. Several years ago now – back in the days when I thought mobile phones were gimmicky and unnecessary – I spent around six months studying at Barcelona University. Otherwise starved of my computer game fix, I used to pop into the local arcade on the way to uni, although being a skint student, I limited myself to one credit – which always went into the Time Crisis coin-op. After several months of toil, sweat and frustration (well, mainly frustration), I finally managed to beat the game on one credit – the only time I’ve ever managed to finish an arcade game in one go. Beaming from ear to ear, I wallowed luxuriously in my enormous sense of achievement, then turned away from the machine with a cocksure smirk to drink in the awed looks and rapturous applause from my admiring audience – which consisted solely of the fat, moustachioed arcade owner, who was sat reading a porn magazine in the corner and who didn’t take a blind bit of notice of me.

Such is the life of the arcade gamer [sigh].

time-crisis-screenshot-2

I suppose that’s one of the most melancholy aspects of playing video games – you put hours and hours of tireless devotion into honing your skills and learning every nuance and technique the game has to offer, but in the end the only people you’re going to impress are other, equally devoted (obsessed?) gamers. It kind of adds a trickle of ennui to the whole proceedings – which turns into a flood once you realise that the arcade owner is more interested in tits than your gaming prowess.

Which is fair enough I suppose.

time-crisis-screenshot-3

Nevertheless, I continued to devote hours of practice to the home version of Time Crisis after I returned from Spain, despite the knowledge that, like all video games, all this tireless devotion would ultimately be for nought.

Unless, that is, the Belgians invade. In which case I would be able to proudly hold my head up high and say that this game, this single, mighty game, was my inspiration for taking on the entire Belgian Empire single-handedly with nothing but an automatic pistol. Perhaps, when it’s all over and I’m being triumphantly carried through the jubilant streets of a liberated London, I’ll look up and notice that Spanish arcade owner in the crowd;  lip quivering, he’ll slowly raise a salute in my honour as ‘Red Hot Senoritas’ slips from his grubby fingers, only to be trampled by the exaltant crowd.

At last, justification for my video game obses… erm, devotion.

Lewis

(Note: The screenshots in this post are taken from the arcade version of Time Crisis. All screenshots are from the excellent Arcade History website: http://www.arcade-history.com/.)

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Filed under 1995, 1997, Coin-Op, Light Gun Game, Namco, Playstation