Friday Flashback Five: Week of May 21, 2000

Yes, fellow gamers, it’s time for yet another Friday Flashback Five, where we take a look at five random games that came out this week in history.  Some games left an impression—whether good or bad—on us, some were forgotten; some were fun, and some—weren’t.  This week, we’re dialing the Wayback Machine for the week of May Twenty-First, Two Thousand.

As we all know, this month hasn’t really ever been a month that’s seen a lot of titles released, and this week was no different.  Only a few games came out this week; a few were memorable, and a few were simply odd.  Let me get the usual disclaimer out of the way: The entries on this list aren’t in any order whatsoever, as this isn’t a top or bottom five list.  It’s just a look back at our hobby’s history.

Alright, the obligatory note out of the way, let’s get it on.

Panty Raider: From Here to Immaturity
X-rated games excepted, video games just don’t pander to certain gamer stereotypes any bit more than this one did.  Yes, the Dead or Alive series was very, ah, shall we say—jiggly—and the clothing was interestingly cut, but the series generally had quality game play to back it up.  Panty Raider, however—well.  To fully appreciate just how hilariously awful this game was, let me give a few more details than I normally do in Triple-F columns.

Three aliens somehow get their hands on a lingerie catalog, and let’s just say that they really like what they see.  So they scoot on over to Earth to get more photos.  To do this they kidnap a human geek named Nelson and basically threaten him with Earth’s destruction unless he gets photos of super models in their underwear.  Nelson must search through three locations—some ruins, a beach, and a jungle—for the super models (don’t ask why they’d be there—don’t ask anything, actually; it’s safer to just go with it).

The aliens tell Nelson what kind of underwear they’re looking for, and it’s his job to first find the women, then entice them to show him the goods.  To do this, he has quite a bag of tricks at his disposal—X-ray specs (to see if she’s even wearing the right type of underwear in the first place), hilariously terrible pick-up lines, mirrors, credit cards, and more.  Eventually you can throw some goop on them three times as they run around (like I said, don’t ask), and you finally get to take pictures of the models in their underwear.  You have ten minutes to do that whole thing three times.

That’s the entire game right there.  Sure, there were “enemies”—but only technically.  The “enemies” only really affected Nelson’s health if he gooped them instead of the models.  That’s actually it.  About the only real “challenge” is getting all the photos in ten minutes.

As you can hopefully see, as terrible as this game was (since it did pander to some of the worst stereotypes our hobby has), it was terrible in a hilarious way—it tried to seriously pander, and the failure in that made what very few gamers even heard of it laugh hysterically.

Perfect Dark
if you’ve never heard of this game and you’re a fan of first-person shooters, this entry’s for you.  There’s a reason the lowest score for this game is eighty percent.  Only the more well-known spiritual predecessor Goldeneye has a better aggregate score, though it was based on fewer reviews.

Perfect Dark started off seeming to ape Goldeneye; it followed a secret agent working on assignment.  After only a little bit of play it quickly proved to be quite different.  Most games, especially first-person shooters, that have varying difficulty levels to choose from really only change health and/or damage.  E.G., a higher difficulty will generally mean that the player’s character takes more damage while the enemies take less.  In Perfect Dark, the difficulties changed almost everything.  Level layout, starting points, even the objectives to complete.

On top of that, the story was surprisingly interesting.  See, whatever compliments can be paid to Goldeneye—as deserved as they are—it was surely at least a bit easier to write the story; it was based on a movie, after all.  Perfect Dark, however, had a story written solely for the game.  In dry text, talking about battling aliens and using a crazy range of weaponry to do it may seem dry, boring—already done.  Yet it was all crafted carefully and implemented with an eye toward letting the player be a part of a deep, well-plotted story.

That wasn’t all, however—not by far.  This was one of the games that made developer Rare gain such a devoted fan-base.  You see, you could play with a friend—but not just some different “capture the flag” match or whatever.  No, they could play alongside you in the story missions and help you—or hinder you.  Yes, that’s right—a friend could play as an enemy and do their best to stop you, and when they were defeated they could jump into another enemy.

To top it off, the thing looked beautiful.  First-person shooters on the Nintendo 64 tended to have a washed-out, muddy look—but Rare went the extra mile and did everything they could to cram enough into the cartridge to bring the console to the brink of melting, to give the player an experience that, to this day, remains nearly unparalleled.

Digimon World
Some gamers have a hard time with the Digimon franchise, calling it an attempt by Bandai to cash in on the Pokémon sensation that swept up gamers around the world of all ages.  That reaction is certainly understandable, but there’s one fundamental note to make, here—the Pokémon franchise got kicked off because of the Tamagotchi—a Bandai-published creation.  So, if anything, Nintendo—the company that published Pokémon—was cashing in on Bandai.

Digimon World, interestingly enough, is almost like the Tamagotchi in video game format.  You bred monsters, fed them, basically took care of them like you would a real pet, then you trained them and battled them.  Breeding and battle were the two main aspects of this game, serving to tie the story of the game together.  That story, though short, was rather fitting to the universe.  In a nut-shell, Digimon begin to lose their memories and become feral, and the island the game takes place on is going to pot.  The protagonist’s task is to put everything to right.  Not a very deep or unique storyline, but it wasn’t trying to be, either, so it can’t be held against the game too much.

Earth 2150
Earth 2150 was a real-time strategy game, and sequel to Earth 2140.  Following some tried-and-true R.T.S. game play elements, players mined for ore, built buildings, and commanded units to go stomp enemies.  In general, players of R.T.S. games in general would be at least moderately comfortable with the game, which is a good thing since it threw other expected R.T.S. elements right out the window.

It was a surprisingly complex game, really.  Unit path-finding was actually pretty good, unlike most of that era, and the A.I. was surprisingly not terrible.  While there were instances of, say, a player’s unit falling for an enemy trap or getting overwhelmed, they were comparably few.  It was also a truly three-dimensional game, as players could dig tunnels underground to, say, launch a surprise attack on an enemy base.  Then there is the “research tree”, which is your R.T.S. stand-by of a tech tree.

Yet it’s more than researching, say, swords.  You actually research individual components, then create a template around the researched technology and use that template to build units.  Further, units have a limited amount of ammunition, and when they run out they can’t do anything but get creamed.  You combat this by building supply depots and ships, which can replenish your units’ ammunition stores.  Those are just a few examples of the ways the game outshone its peers—and in many ways, it still outshines even today.

The story was actually pretty good for the genre.  Most R.T.S. stories are “you don’t like each other.  Now go fight!”  While that’s true, here, there’s more to it than three factions disagreeing on politics.  Essentially, after enough wars, the Earth is being knocked off-course.  The three factions are trying to escape before everything goes wonky.  Then there’s the multi-player, which admittedly didn’t bring as much to the table that was new.  You could see who could gather the most resources, who could touch the other’s flag, and such.

One interesting mode was building-less battles—you just had units and fought it out.  No buildings, no research, nothing.  Another is the conceptual flip-side to that—instead of focusing on other units, you focused on buildings.  Whomever destroyed everyone else’s buildings first won.  All in all, it was a fun game that could hold up even today.

Motocross Madness 2
This one was an interesting game; like its predecessor, it was technically in the “racing simulation” sub-genre, but only technically.  It was a “simulation” as far as the player’s character rode something that looked like a motorcycle.  Beyond that the game left the term “simulation” in the dust.

There was a plethora of tracks to ride on, helping to off-set the disappointment many had that it didn’t ship with a level-editor (it would be made available for download a bit later).  There were also a good few bikes to choose from, though they didn’t handle too differently, and the options to customize their performance were few.  You could also design your own rider skin, which could be uploaded for others to see and use, and there were a few different race modes to choose from.

One of the biggest selling points were the graphics.  Now, normally, I’m not one for graphics—if a game is pretty but the game play stinks, it’s a stinky game, no ifs, ands, or buts.  Here, though—it made everything more enjoyable, from pulling off insane stunts to crashing in ways only outmatched by Evel Knievel.  On the whole, there wasn’t much “simulation” in this racer—and gamers didn’t argue one bit.  It was simply too fun.


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