Random Access Memory Lane Part 5: The Final Boss

So we have finally come to the climax of our epic recollection of our own personal ghosts of gaming past. There are so many games that we haven’t had the chance to talk about like Road Rash, Desert Strike, Tomb Raider, FF7, Nebulus, World cup italia 90, Tennis Ace, Alex the Kid in Miracle world, Splatterhouse, Ghouls and ghosts, Another world, Turtles in time and Speed Ball are just some of the titles I considered boring you to sleep with. Alas we decided to narrow our selections down to five and without further ado onto the last.

For my final choice I opted for a game that was again released in the bumper year of ’97 (coincidentally the very same year our beloved Bungie was formed) I didn’t mention this or my compatriots game in my previous posts run down of titles from the same year as I didn’t want to spoil the surprise for you, our lucky, lucky readers. (MS Dosser: – unfortunately I did like a nob)

george a romero creator of the fine of the dead series

Mild mannered old man, or horror movie legend?

The game I’m about to discuss has an age rating on it so for argument’s sake lets say I didn’t play it til around ’99. After the original ’96 title received critical acclaim this extended version was released to tide fans over whilst awaiting the sequel. A first for me, despite having seen George A Romero‘s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead a few years earlier, I had never before had the chance to go toe to toe with a horde of flesh-eating, brain-dead Zombie Bastards.

resident evil directors cut box

(Resident Evil Directors Cut 1997 PS)

You had probably already come to the conclusion that I was going to be talking about the RE series. Like me, many of you would have screamed yourself silly when that first iconic dead head craned his neck and rose to meet Chris/Jill after being so rudely uninterrupted from his less than conventional snack. From that moment on this game kept me on the edge of my seat right up until the glorious rooftop climax. Capcompreviously better known for the hugely successful Street Fighter series and Megaman games you would probably never have guessed that this (almost) spoof of Western horror flicks would become their biggest and most profitable franchise to date. However with the popularity of the PS amongst adolescent teens and young men the walking dead were always destined to become a massive hit.

first zombie resident evil

The first VG zombie?

The opening sequence was most unusually filmed footage with real life actors!! Far from lending the game some gravitas this shoddy B-movie style intro actually detracts somewhat from the horrors you would find within the Arklay Mansion. That said I still love everything about this cheesy intro (from Barry’s blatantly stuck on ginger beard to Chris woodenly shouting “No! Don’t go!” at a rapidly shrinking badly animated CG helicopter) and I wouldn’t change it for the world. So you escape the attentions of the first Zombie and try to find your missing fellow S.T.A.R.S (special tactics and rescue service) members from the Raccoon city police department, things can surely only get better right ….. right? Nope.

Barry Burton

Al from Home Improvement

Pretty soon you get the hang of dodging or killing the shambling, moaning, biting, rotting corpses wandering the hallways of this mountainside mansion. Should you decide to try to take out each and every T-virus victim you are going to run out of ammo pretty quickly (Unless you are playing on noob mode), which you will soon live, or not, to regret. In the early stages of the game running from Z-heads is not the most of your worries and you will find yourself spending most of your time searching through files for clues (some of the most important plot points come from reading through various documents and diaries known as files) rifling through drawers for ammo and searching high and low for the various jewels, crests, crank handle and keys required to gain access to the other areas of the mansion giving the game something of a puzzle/mystery adventure. As you delve further into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Bravo team and the Umbrella corporation’s sinister experiments you find yourself up against odds stacked increasingly against you.

zombie dog resident evil

Sit Ubu Sit …. good dog.

The Zombies become the least of your worries when you discover what other mutants the mad scientists have created from the labs hidden deep within the mountain under the mansion. Cerberus the infected dogs are one of the earliest to be introduced, their movement speed combined with your characters slow aiming makes them incredibly difficult to take down without taking some serious damage.

Hunters come next, a kind of mutant frog zombie thing with razor claws that will slice you to pieces given half a chance. If you think that’s the worst of it you’re wrong, as giant spiders, snakes, bloodthirsty sharks and more await you down each and every corridor and lurk in all the dark corners.

The villains are brilliant (I wont name names in case you have yet to discover who it is but most of you know who I mean) and the spooky atmosphere created here is topped probably only by the brilliant Silent Hill and the game will have you jumping out of your seat time and time again (especially if you insist on playing it alone in the dark). I know it’s not without its drawbacks, the clunky animations of the square chunky character models stand out against the lush static backgrounds and I know many who would criticise the games slow pace, you could wander around for hours searching for a key and not encounter any enemies. Every time you enter a door or climb a set stairs you are treated to a painfully slow first person animation depicting the opening door or ascending of stairs, for some this is an unwanted distraction, for me however this along with the frozen camera angles (which at times seem to be designed deliberately to make it impossible for you to see your foes) just adds to the tension, an important aspect for any horror title movie or game. Yes the voice acting is a joke and the way the characters gesticulate wildly whenever they speak is borderline hilarious and completely unnecessary … we can tell who is speaking thank you very much but these are minor flaws and they have little impact on the game.

Resident Evil is one of the best titles, not just of the 128 bit generation but of all time. It has been so influential to many games that have come since (Alone in the Dark, Silent Hill, Eternal Darkness, Project Zero, Obscure to name but a few). A series which has spawned many sequels, prequels, Hollywood movies even novelizations and reboots over the years, most notably a full remake on GameCube and DS and continues today. With the forthcoming RE6 looking to bring together some of these games’ most beloved characters I think there is life in this old viral mutant romp yet.

I have to give thanks Capcom for preparing me for the inevitable Zombie Emergency from a very early age.

-” So I ate his face Itchy …. tasty ….”

-Elth

The last game on my list I know pretty much every gamer holds dear to their hearts and undoubtedly gave a lot of you your first proper case of ‘Nintendo Thumb’. It’s a totally obvious choice so by all means call me a noob in the comments, that’s fine because this game pretty much invented everything in every game I play now in one form or another. Its Goldeneye 007.

goldeneye box artWhilst you lot finish your silent nerdgasms at your desks and public fist pumping on the bus I’ll give you a brief history. For those 3 people who don’t know it was released in 1997 and developed by Rare, who also created the brilliant Donkey Kong Country mentioned earlier in this series, Goldeneye is a stealth game that takes place during the James Bond movie of the same name released 2 years earlier. At first it was destined to be a Virtua Cop inspired on-the-rails shooter but given the strides in console technology the viability of a more Doom based 3D shooter meant that the Goldeneye we love was born.

This game’s accomplishments have been trumpeted from on high and still echo round the crevices of gaming culture today and I think it’s important to just recognise how this game was able to become so influential. I am sure this was down to the fact that Rare were given as much time as they needed to develop this game and were under no pressure to get it released to coincide with the movie. Which if released today, for a game such as this is a scenario that would just not be permitted with the likes of EA and Activision banging the drum at developers to make sure they row or face a lashing. This game proves that time is by far a developers greatest resource.

So now we know how (complete with sly corporate dig) the question now is why was this game so bloody good. Personally as much as I loved the single player, I mean that  moment where you hurl yourself off the Contra Dam sticks with anyone who played Goldeneye, but as usual the multiplayer was where the real fun started for me.

It is even more staggering that Martin Hollis the lead designer said that the multiplayer was “a complete afterthought”. Good job you put it in there Mr Hollis because every console shooter has only really moved a couple of inches since from your vision and in fact in some cases have taken a step back by not even allowing split screen multiplayer.

The N64 brought you the ability to have up to four players at once in split screen mode and with Goldeneye being the first proper multiplayer console shooter it paved the way for those early LAN party style play sessions where automatic gunfire ushered in the birth of talking smack for a whole generation. Living close to school I spent many a lunch time and even more revision time for mock GCSE’s glued to my TV trying to, often unsuccessfully, kill three of my mates whilst another few lads watched on awaiting their turn.

The only rules were winner stays on and no one can be Oddjob.

Oddjob’s villainy stemmed from never being able to go on any rides at Alton Towers

The game modes were genius and still directly translate into almost every modern shooter. Take the always tense and quite often very campy You Only Live Twice, whereby a player has two lives and once you lose those lives your out, you lose and are subsequently mocked by your friends. A modern parallel that immediately springs to mind is that of the Call of Duty series Search and Destroy mode which just added an objective which everyone ignores and got rid of a life. Similarly the License to Kill mode is a one shot one kill game which is basically Halo’s Team Swat and The Living Daylights is an objective game whereby you must control a flag and hold it for as long as possible… sound familiar? It should because this mode exists in pretty much every FPS out today.

Continuing with the theme of firsts, the guns again were right up there, Goldeneye used realistic models of guns which if you look at most of its contemporary PC shooters like Quake they were much more pretendy, as were the guns in the N64’s coldly received Turok. Proximity and remote mines made an appearance which as far as I am aware had not surfaced before, which personally led to some of the most ridiculous infinite proxy mines custom matches and now are seen throughout most realistic military shooter in the form of claymore’s and C4. Oh yeah it had throwing knives too, nuff said.

Most notably though is the console appearance of the zoomable sniper rifle which, along with MDK that Elth mentioned last post, Goldeneye is credited for popularising. You just have to look at any game with guns in it and this feature is as standard.

I could go on about the level design for an age but I wont as I know this is getting a little long and gushy but I will say Archives and Facility were a triumph and especially good for those remote mine insanity sessions I mentioned earlier. The variety of levels was great too and it didn’t matter one bit about the extensive use of gray-scale throughout most of them. Back then this game was cutting edge and it felt like it every time you played, nowadays its firmly planted in the history books as the game that pushed the console shooter snowball off the top of the cliff. Epic cannot even describe my love for this game and it’s perfect in every way.

Just ignore the fact you can’t jump.

-MS Dosser

Well that’s it, the rose tinted glasses are off and our look back at our most memorable games as a youngster has come to a close. Did you play Resident Evil or Goldeneye? What did you think of them or indeed any of the games in the previous posts? Please subscribe and leave us comments, you can also follow us on Twitter @TeaBagOrDie.

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Random Access Memory Lane Part 3: The Era of the 20 pence mix up.

You can find Part 2 of our Random Access Memory Lane series here

So far we’ve talked beat em-ups, adventures, and puzzlers what we have sorely missed so far is a war game. There were two games in the running for me Desert Strike and Cannon Fodder I decided to roll with the latter.

cannon fodder front cover

Cannon Fodder ’93

Virgin are now known more for their high-speed internet and TV services but in the early days they had fingers in all kinds of pies and they published this RTS gem from Sensible Software. Where other games can tend to glamorize war Cannon Fodder took a different approach and hidden behind this comical war sim was a pretty strong anti-war message. The thing that sticks in my mind most about this game was not the excellent gameplay and humorous little digs at the futility of many of our planets great conflicts, but the intro song. Those who played this game on a 16 bit console probably wont have heard this before but it was a killer track and I still remember the lyrics completely today.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PiYuq6Ac3a0

War .. Never been so much fun.

They were right war probably had never been so much fun. Taking control of a small squad of teeny soldiers the player was tasked with taking on much larger armies of little shooty men. The game starts out pretty easily but the difficulty soon gets ramped up as you are forced to take on more crafty enemies in more difficult terrains. A mouse based game, your infantry follow your clicks around the screen and can be split into groups in order to more effectively take out your opponents or cover ground more quickly.

cannon fodder boot camp

Boot Camp

Getting your troupe to the objective alive was important. Loose a soldier and you would have to bring in a new recruit, one whose lesser experience made him/her a less efficient killing machine, luckily you could arm them with more than just machine guns. The standard tiny dot firing guns were effective against infantry and explosive barrels but for the more difficult jeeps and for those craftily placed troop houses you needed something with a little more punch. Grenades and rocket launchers were available but ammunition was sparse so making good use of your power weapons then was as important than as it is in modern shooters.

poppy intro

Armistice

The game found itself in a spot of bother after the media claimed the opening imagery was mimicking the remembrance day poppy and that this, combined with the games comical take on war was in someway undermining the importance of the symbol. The media had a point I guess but it was blown all out of proportion and I doubt it was ever the intention of the developers to make light of the sacrifices made in the past, I feel it was intended more to make people think twice about the necessity of future conflicts. More importantly the game was great fun to play and another tick in the box of a fab developer from the 16-bit era.

– Elth

Ok you dirty bitches, time to seamlessly segue into my pick, no more fucking about lets bring out the big guns. Yeah that was an awful segue but you wont care when you see the bad boy I have on the cards here. Donkey Kong Muthafuckin Country! (the swearing is not part of the actual title.)

I will always remember the day our parents got my brother and I got us a SNES as a joint Christmas present, our first console. It was amazing, playing classics like Super Mario world, Super Mario kart, Super Mario all-stars… hell anything with that mustachioed fearless plumber in was some of the most fun I have ever had and I will always hold Mario on a pedestal. However it was not the flagship brotherly combo of Nintendo that wins the 16 bit gold medal for me. It was DK all the way. In fact, game wise, it was my first true love. Eventually I would move on and meet Halo, who I knew was the one I wanted to grow old with, you know get a villa in Spain with a pool, some dogs and a garden and have the grand kids John and Cortana over in the summer to float around lazily in their rubber ring….*blinks*…Wow, that got weird, lets move on.

So why was Donkey Kong Country so fapping good?

Rare made it, the legendary developer behind so many Nintendo classics like Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and of course the seminal Goldeneye 007. This company made some amazing games for various Nintendo systems, but it was DKC that announced their arrival as a heavy hitter.

The level design and variety was impeccable, the difficulty increased at exactly the right gradient. Some of the outstanding levels that spring to mind still are Barrel Canon Canyon and Vulture Culture. Oh and of course Mine Cart Carnage! Those mine cart levels were the exception to that well honed difficulty gradient. When one of these cropped up on you then the fun and games were over and you had to lean forward and put every mental faculty you had in to each jump and when you finished that level the sense of achievement was worth more than a thousand wham bars. Oh and looking back there was a level called Necky’s Nuts!? oo err.

Rambi the Rhino, what a legend. In fact all the animals that you got to ride were perfectly useful for the level they were found on, but everyone loved Rambi, most for the fact that you could get to bonus games with him very easily when you accidentally crashed through a wall. Personally I loved him for the noise he used to make when he hit enemies.

Two player co-op was the most fun. This was mainly because being the oldest I was always Donkey Kong, but my brother didn’t mind because he loved being Diddy Kong!

The replay value of each level, always striving to get those letters to spell K O N G for the extra life, if you missed one, you went back and played until to got it.

Visiting Cranky Kong was always a laugh even though his tips were never really that handy.

The music spot on for each level as well, sounding fun on easier lighter levels and descending into something entirely more creepy the harder or darker the level got.

And finally the graphics, oh the graphics. For their time they were mind-blowing, that little cartridge squeezed every drop of capability out of the SNES, and this isn’t just me being ultra nostalgic, this game genuinely broke through the graphical barrier the console had, I remember reading in Nintendo magazine that they had never seen the like of it and when I got my paws on it I honestly thought graphics in games could never beat this.

On this point alone I am glad I was wrong. Although I think I could still get down with 16 bit Halo…

-MS Dosser.

Did you spot the anti-war message in Cannon Fodder? or did you just like blasting sprites to bits? Let us know.

Do you have as fond a memory of DK or have a different favourite game on the SNES, please leave us a comment, subscribe, like, tweet or +1 us. Thanks.