Friday Flashback Five: Week of May 05, 2000

You know what today is—Friday.  That means it’s time for yet another Friday Flashback Five, where we look at five games that debuted this week in gaming history.  Sometimes they had an impact on us as gamers, sometimes they didn’t but should have, and sometimes they’re just interesting looks at gaming history.  This time around, we’re heading way back to the week of the Fifth of May, Two Thousand.

This week, it’s a bit more of a random assortment of titles.  A couple you’ve likely heard of, a couple you might not, but they were at least somewhat entertaining.

Only a handful of games came out this week.  A couple were memorable enough to likely be known by even the most modern of gamers, while others, well—weren’t.  That said, let me of course remind you that this list is given in no particular order.  With that out of the way, we head off to the first one, which is…

Walt Disney Pictures Presents: Dinosaur
Released as a tie-in game to the movie of the same name, the game failed to live up to expectations.  A lot of it was due to sheer scale.  Dinosaurs, as we all know from our first few years in academia, are ginormously huge, and the GameBoy Color—wasn’t.  Trying to put large creatures with complex facial expressions onto a screen a few inches wide with hardware sorely lacking the ability to display much complexity—it’s almost surprising developer Digital Eclipse Software, Inc. was given the go-ahead to make it in the first place.

Another problem was the game play itself.  The movie basically revolved around the dinosaurs—at the least, that’s what the kids would remember most.  The game, however, had the lemurs be front and center, with actual dinosaurs not seen quite as often.  One can only imagine the confused expression on a kid’s face as he maneuvered his or her lemur around and wondered where the dinosaurs were in a game called Dinosaur.

Vagrant Story
It’s rather unlikely you’ve not heard of this one, especially if you’re into R.P.G.s to any real extent.  There’s a good reason for it, too.  It was a rather innovative game, and threw so much at the player, more than just “go here for this side-quest and there for that one”.  Combat was similar to Parasite Eve‘s sphere-based system, and there was a rather interesting system of where you could forge weapons.

That hodgepodge of game elements made it hard to really get invested in the game as a whole.  Oh, the story was rather good, of course.  However, the weapon crafting system was cumbersome at best, making more than a few gamers beat the game and put it on their shelf, not to be touched again.  Some would want to, remembering the fun of the story and the innovation of the combat—but the other elements being as convoluted as they are made them put it back down again.  It was a great game, deserving of its praise, but it could have been better.

Like so many three-dimensional fighters of that era, Gekido was inspired by two-dimensional fighters as well as coming out with a really weird story.  An anti-virus has become sentient and, as a government operative, you get to fight through hordes of enemies to take it down.  Yeah, don’t ask.

It was a really weird game, with combos that weren’t quite expected.  Reception-wise, it was all over the map—much like the mechanics themselves.  Hit-detection was kind of spotty, and the only place you’ll find more clipping is in a barber’s chair.  That said, it had a certain campy charm to it.

SimCity 3000 Unlimited
Predating the Sims line was the SimCity series of management games.  This one was a re-release of SimCity 3000 with new—pretty much everything.  New building sets, scenarios, disasters, and much more.

That said, the core was basically identical to the first iteration, so it was really best suited for gamers who hadn’t played the first version.  Another thing is that some of the new features actually weren’t all that great.  There were new disasters, sure, but not every player really wanted to deal with disasters, and some of the buildings in the new building sets were really basically just palette-swaps—re-colored versions of other buildings.

That said, the SimCity line is one of the ones that still holds up even to this day, and Unlimited is no different.  While it again was best for gamers who hadn’t played the first version of 3000, for those into city-management games, Unlimited was everything its predecessors were, and a bit better at that.

Sometimes you have to wonder what goes on in the board rooms of companies behind the production of video games.  Take Toobin’, for example.

The arcade version was you sitting in a giant doughnut-shaped inflatable water-toy, zipping down a river.  You maneuvered—and I use the term loosely—by paddling with your hands.  You “raced” one other person, either controlled by another player or by A.I.  You collected points, and went through different rivers of varying difficulties, with said difficulties coming from things like dogs and tree branches in the water as obstacles you’d have to avoid.

Not exactly a Cruis’n game, is it?

Irrespective of how poorly-received the arcade game was, someone—either at publisher Midway or developer Atari—thought it be a great addition to the GameBoy Color library.  It—didn’t quite work.  The game play was simplified from its already-simple form, and the rivers were more homogeneous than the arcade version’s.  Over all, it was head-scratching as to why anyone thought it was a good idea, and it came as no surprise when it was received poorly.


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