Throughout video gaming history there have been many video games based on movies. In many cases movie based video games target an audience who are already familiar with, and probably already fans of, the source material that gave the video game its title. In some rare cases a movie based video game can be based upon something more obscure or older than the player, or the video games itself, leaving the player unfamiliar with its source material, or origins.
A personal example would be one of my favorite original Playstation games: The Italian Job. The year was around 2002, and I was buying up as many inexpensive PSone games as I possibly could. I liked having variety in my collection, but I would be remiss if I didn’t admit the factor that played heavily into these purchases was that these games were selling for probably less than the cellophane they were wrapped in just to make room for PS2 games.
As a kid my family never went to the movies and we rarely ever paid much attention to VHS releases. When I was a kid, the only way I saw a movie was the, often times heavily censored, version that was the weekend matinee on the basic TV channels we had. We never had cable either. So when I found a game called The Italian Job that looked like Driver, but with Mini Coopers, and was published by Rockstar games, the company behind Grand Theft Auto, I was sold, but knew absolutely nothing about the source material this game was based on.
The following year a film bearing the same name was set to be released, but it looked nothing like the video game I was playing. As the commercials for the new movie by the same name started appearing on TV I decided to hit the internet and find out what exactly this video game was based on and why there was a new movie using its name. It didn’t take long for me to find out The Italian Job was a cherished classic from a bygone era, starring Michael Caine. This resulted in me purchasing a copy of the DVD and loving the movie, as well as giving further context to the video game. A video game based on the new movie was released, but I would dare say neither the new movie or its video game are anywhere near as good as the originals.
Another example would be Starsky and Hutch on the Gamecube (also available on the PS2 and Xbox). I was familiar with Starsky and Hutch, as it was played on a local channel at 5am, but I had never sat down and actually watched the show for very long, just bits and pieces. The comedic movie version was set to be released the following year but, yet again, a video game based on the original version was released beforehand. Admittedly loosely based on the original TV show, it turned out to be a fairly ok game, while no further version was needed for the comedic movie.
A perhaps weak examples might be The Three Stooges on the NES. I’m not sure how popular they were when this game was released. The NES game was released some seventeen years after the final episode of The Three Stooges. Maybe they were still popular in this era, or maybe there were a lot of kids scratching their heads when they saw this on the shelves in toy stores.
One of my favorite examples is Chapolim x Drácula, which is a ROM hack of Ghost House for the Sega Master system, but released on physical cartridges in Brazil. The game is based on a Latin American character by the name of El Chapulín Colorado, portrayed by the late, great Roberto Gómez Bolaños (aka Chespirito). From what I understand a Brazilian company secured the rights to produce their own Sega products within the country to keep costs affordable to the citizens and somewhere therein this game was born. I would love to have a copy of the game myself, but I’m not sure many, if any, have left Brazil.
I’m sure in most cases everyone is familiar with the Duck Tales and the Rescue Rangers and the Tail Spins from the Disney Afternoon lineup of cartoons. It’s the obscure things, at least to me, that cause me to research the source material, and learning more about it that I enjoy. As with The Italian Job, I had played through the game and enjoyed it without knowing anything at all about it, but once I watched the movie I could pick out what each situation was based on and recall the movie scene in my mind, which added to the enjoyment of the game overall. Sure, sometimes games are loosely based on the title they spawned from, but in some cases having the knowledge of where they came from can add a bit more excitement and enjoyment to the overall experience.
Back when I was thrifting regularly I found NES controllers quite frequently, so I would pick them up for, at the very least, tradable assets. NES controllers were designed and built to last forever, or so it seemed until I found, ironically, an NES dog bone controller with actual dog chew marks on it. I originally figured something inside of the controller had been severed, or maybe the cable was snapped internally, so I went to work testing a few theories I had. Since the dog bone NES controllers have cables that detach from the internal board I swapped them around with a few other dog bone controllers I have, which quickly debunked any bad cable theory.
I continued to painstakingly check over the board for broken traces or cracks, of which there were none. The only thing I could think of was that maybe the shift register IC had gone bad, so I took one out of a regular NES controller and soldered it into the chewed up dog bone controller. That’s all it took! The controller worked flawlessly once the IC was swapped out. I did try the IC in the rectangle controller and now it too was completely dead. I found it odd that the IC was dead, as it showed no signs of damage be it physical or liquid. For years that poor controller that gave its brain for the greater good to bring back a chewed up dog bone controller has sat in a box, and weighed heavily on my mind, so I decided it was time to bring the poor little thing back to life.
As I was purchasing some other electronics parts I decided to check the website I was purchasing from, Tayda Electronics, for the 4021 Shift Register I was needing, and much to my joy they have them for 37 cents. Once my purchase had come in I was excited to bring this controller back to life. Sure, it’s a normal, abundant NES controller, but this one is kind of a hero in my eyes, as it gave its brain to save a dog bone controller. From soldering in the new IC to testing the controller the whole process only took a minute or two, and the controller now works perfectly.
I’m still not sure what made the original IC fail in the dog bone controller as it showed no signs of damage, but the controller was chewed up, so I’ll just consider the mystery solved. I’m also not sure how often NES controllers have their ICs go bad on them, whether randomly or through genuine damage. Regardless I’m pretty happy to say that a 37 cent part and a few minutes worth of work brought it back to life. Again, I know NES controllers are abundant, but I hope that not too many of them have been thrown away or destroyed due to what is a fairly simple repair. After all, it was through these controllers we all once went on some of the greatest adventures of our lives, and maybe even still through these controllers there are great adventures yet to come.
Yep, I’m doing this, I’m reviewing Driv3r. I absolutely loved Driver 1 and 2 so I was chomping at the bit for a copy of Driv3r to come in at my local used media store. Ok, I’m a bit lazy and by the time I actually realized Driv3r was a thing the game was already massively panned online, and even had it’s own scandal about how badly it had been panned. So in 2006, with my Xbox at the ready, I figured it was time I took a chance and bought the game, and even with as horrible as this game genuinely is, I still found aspects that I truly enjoyed it.
I said it up front, this game is genuinely horrible and that should be it, right? Normally I would say yes, but this is part of the Driver series and I couldn’t just give up on it. This was Driver’s chance to really put Grand Theft Auto in its place and knock it down a peg, but that didn’t happen at all. In Driver 2 the mechanic to get out of the car and walk around was introduced, and it was a complete game changer. I feel in Driv3r they should have been able to build upon those clunky controls and make Driv3r an amazing masterpiece. Bzzzz! WRONG! Tanner gets out of the car and stands like he has a stick up his ass, same with the way he walks and jumps. It’s just awful!
Regardless I pressed on and suffered through the missions to complete each section and move on to a new city, and I do mean suffered in many cases. It was as if this game was never tested. In many cases I found the AI was too accurate with their shots and fired much quicker than I could, causing me to die over and over again. When it comes to the supposed heart-pounding car chasing missions I found, in a few cases, the AI was in what should be a much slower car, but was impossibly faster than I was, causing me to lose them and restart that mission repeatedly.
I spent countless hours playing Driv3r to its completion and yes I did enjoy parts of it. I think most of the difficulty comes from the game’s glitches and seeming lack of testing, more so than any actual difficulty from the missions themselves. It’s flawed, majorly flawed, but I think the cities looked really nice, the car selections were nice, the fact you could swim was amazing, the fact you had boats and motorcycles and other vehicles you could choose from was pretty neat as well. Do I think they should have had a Tommy Vercetti lookalike for Tanner to go around and kill as an Easter egg? Nope! What Driv3r did right still wasn’t anywhere near good enough to try and make fun of Grand Theft Auto. What can I say about Driv3r? Well I played through it (twice), and I actually really enjoy the free roam mode, but you have to suffer through the missions to unlock everything. It’s part of the series and sadly it’s cemented it’s place in video game history, but Driver had one more chance to put on its big boy pants, which is honestly a reviewing I’m excited to do.
Since the dawn of the internet people have used their space therein to document their success in video games with the intention of helping others who might be stuck on the same game. Websites like GameFAQs and RPGClassics are two that spring to mind when it comes to places to find documentation of videos and how to beat them. I will admit to using both websites quite a few times when I’ve become stuck on various video games. A quick search online and a complete walkthrough pops up, filled with information ranging from the very basic walkthrough to in-depth puzzle solutions and where to find that coveted weapon or set of armor.
If you’re more of a collector type some companies decided to go a step further and actually publish video game guides. This way you could own the video game as well as a book explaining all the things you needed to know. I do own a few guides, but I never purposely purchased them brand new, I just picked them up when I saw them in thrift stores and thought they would be a nice thing to have. I know that I could easily search online and get the exact same information from random contributors to the guide websites, but there is something about breaking out a book and thumbing through the pages that feels slightly more intellectual to me. In fact, some games even came with their own guidebooks, Earthbound and Illusion of Gaia are two that I can think of.
As a shift in technology came, a shift in the way walkthroughs and guides are presented. Now you have the choice to thumb through a book that looks nice on a shelf, read paragraph after paragraph from a well written guide or you can use the video guides that have become hugely popular with the advent of Youtube. Again, I have to say I’ve used these guides as well, as I find watching a video of someone actually playing a game gives me ideas on how to adjust my strategy to be better at that game.
In some cases seeking help is absolutely mandatory. One such example is StarTropics, which originally came with a letter that was required to beat the game. Whether you purchased a used copy of the original game cartridge or, especially, a digital version, you won’t have that code to finish the game. This would require you to search online for a guide or at the very least do an image search for someone who has already gotten the code from the letter and documented it online. Which in a way is kind of a guide too, kind of. Some might even be able to build a case that a game’s manual is a guide. Many video game manuals taught the player the required button combination to do certain moves and what items were valuable to collect and which items were lethal.
Overall I would say walkthroughs and guides, no matter how they are presented, are generally a good thing. However, I have found myself becoming lazily reliant on them once I have broken that seal, so to speak. I can be playing through a game and find myself lost, backtracking and still butting my head up against what seems like a dead end. Once I feel I am forced to seek out help from a walkthrough I tend to keep reading from that moment forth to aid me throughout the rest of the game, instead of just using the help to surpass that obstacle and continuing to make my own way. One example is Crystalis, one of my absolute, all time favorite video games ever made. When I was a kid I was stuck at a certain point, so I figured the best thing I could do was print out the guide that I found online. After fifteen or twenty minutes I had a huge stack of single-side printed papers telling me how to do everything in the game, and my first playthrough was won simply because I had printed out the guide, not entirely of my own volition.
More recently I found myself watching a series of youtube videos to help me complete The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds. It’s a great game, and the challenge isn’t overly difficult, but I had a little bit of a stumble along the way and sought out a guide. Once I had started I found myself watching the video as a whole series and merely following along. Sure, I beat the challenges, I beat the bosses, I found the secrets, but they were guided by the videos I watched. In retrospect, I feel I was only pushing the buttons at the right time to get the results I saw on the computer screen. Can I really say that is my success? I’m not sure.
I guess it all comes down to how one feels about beating a game. If you feel you’ve put the time and effort in, even if you were guided to that point, and therefore that’s your success then yes that is your success. I personally feel a mixture of feelings about using a guide and allowing myself to become consumed by it. Sure I did the manual work, I pressed the buttons, I did all the things and that all makes me feel like I’ve done something. On the other side of that proverbial coin I feel the guide got me there more so than my own exploration and critical thinking skills, or lack there of. So, are walkthroughs and guides a bad thing? No, sometimes they’re a necessary part of getting through a game. Am I a lazy person who also enjoys playing video games? After writing this up, I guess the answer is absolutely!
Illusion of Gaia is a game I’ve attempted to start playing a few times but never really could get myself to play very far into it. This game was developed by Quintet as the second part of the Soul Blazer series which includes Soul Blazer, Illusion of Gaia and Terranigma. I’ve heard a lot of great things about Quintet’s games, including ActRaiser, but I’ve never given any of them a proper play through until now. So the question remains of why I couldn’t get stuck into this game and give it a proper play through.
Illusion of Gaia follows the main character, Will, and his friends as they travel the world and collect ancient artifacts known as Mystic Statues. While Will’s friends are almost always present as they skip from town to town, they really don’t do much other than exist. Where in a traditional RPG friends will be brought along to aid the main character, Will’s friends aid him very little, if at all. I’m not sure why they’re even a part of this game, beyond pushing the narrative forward in some ways.
This game has a lot of the hallmarks found in other good SNES RPGs, but it’s still missing things that would normally draw me in. The graphics are good, the colors are bright and everything about this game seems right, but the game feels a bit unorthodox to me. Perhaps a lot of aspects some people would call tedious I find desirable, when it comes to an RPG. Things such as weapons and armor are gone. Traveling from town to town and even backtracking to towns over and over again to unlock something it gone. Spells, leveling up and epic boss battles are all gone.
I can forgive Final Fantasy II’s (the real FF2, not the US version) leveling system, but in Illusion of Gaia it feels too linear. The game seems to hold your hand and say here you go, this is what you wanted because I say so. I guess since the game centers around kids the weapons and armor aspect might feel odd. Maybe. Spells could have been useful though, but not even a hint is made about them here. The one thing that really kind of ruins this game for me is the lack of a leveling system. There are a finite amount of things to kill in each given section and once they are all dead you earn a small upgrade in health, defense or offense. This is the only way you can grow stronger in this game, and it just feels like the game is holding too tightly to the player’s hand. I like to grind out levels and make sure I can take down the upcoming boss.
Speaking of bosses, none of them really posed much of a problem. I guess if you make the bosses easy to kill you don’t really need much of a leveling system, but I’ve found it’s more of a think and rethink my strategy type situation rather than brute force. Believe me, thinking and rethinking is a heavily used aspect in this game. It seems a lot of the traditional RPG challenges have been removed, the upgrading your stats system is doled out by the game at its discretion and everything boils down to figuring out a puzzle. Now, I don’t mind puzzles in RPGs, as a matter of fact I think it can be a great aspect of a game if used the right way, but to me Illusion of Gaia seems to strip away everything that makes an RPG an RPG and replaces it with puzzles.
Ok, if I allow myself to free my mind of the frustration brought on by everything that makes this game feel so linear I can say that this game is pretty ok. Like I said the graphics are nice, the controls are responsive and there are some pretty good puzzles, and upgraded attacks too. With as much as I dislike some of the elements of this game I still don’t think it’s as rough around the edges as poor old Lagoon. After a while of playing Illusion of Gaia I kind of accepted it for what it was and got into it. Did I love it? NOPE! Did I enjoy my time playing through it? Kind of. Am I glad I gave it a proper play through? Yes, so I can say I did and I will most likely never play it again. Although, nothing is definite.
This post is lovingly dedicated to the memory of Hamlet and his selfless act of giving his bacon for peace. Oink oink little Hamlet, Oink oink!