Friday Flashback Five: Week of June 17th, 2001


You know what today means—time for another Friday Flashback Five!  Each week, we take a gander at five random games that came out this week in history, as sometimes they had an impact on our hobby, though other times they were forgotten almost as soon as they were published.  This week, we’re heading all the way back to the week of the Seventeenth of June, back in ‘Oh-One.

A good number of games came out this week, which was an interesting week also in that a good number of the games would be remembered even today by many gamers, while others were soon forgotten.  Also, as usual, this list is not in any order, nor does it represent a “top” or “bottom” list.  It’s just a look back at this week in gaming history.

N.B.A. Street
There are basketball games that try to faithfully bring the “experience” of the court to the basketball fan-gamer as the Madden franchise tries to bring to the football fan-gamer.  Then you have N.B.A. Street, a game that stepped away from trying to provide a “realistic experience”, to make a game that was just fun.

One of the main elements was the trick-based point system.  If you just became skilled at getting the ball in the hoop from any point on the court, you’re only playing half the game.  Perform tricks and your “Gamebreaker” meter fills.  Get it full means that, for as long as the Gamebreaker mode lasts, not only can you score points for your side—but you can also subtract points from your opponent.  You could also use points to unlock things like clothing and courts, as well as spending them on customizing a player to however you like.

The worst down-side, really, was that it didn’t look too great.  It didn’t look terrible, really, but it wasn’t all that “interesting”, visually speaking.  That’s really about the worst thing that can be said about it, so it was one of the better basketball games on the PS2, hands down.

Startopia
Generally-speaking, when thinking of “real-time <whatever> management” games, people usually think of two things—Maxis’ Sim series, and most titles under the Sid Meiers banner.  The challenge to that was Mucky Foot Productions‘ title, Startopia.  For basically coming of nowhere and trying to become as well-known as titles from the aforementioned series, the game was received rather well.

There was actually a story, here, something which I think helped.  Essentially, you played a contractor hired to fix alien space stations up according to their specifications and the like.  The actual mechanics were a little different than one would expect from a real-time <whatever> management game, but constructing a humorous story around those mechanics helped prove it could stand up to the more well-established franchises.

As for those mechanics, you moved through a three-dimensional setting with the mouse, tending to people’s needs, working on building parts up, dealing with combat more reminiscent of a real-time strategy setting, and so on.  It did its best to carve out a niche amongst its peers, and though it did better than might have been expected, it just didn’t leave a lasting impression.

Time Crisis: Project Titan
With today’s controller-less systems gaining popularity, younger gamers might not realize that there was a time when the only “non-standard” way to play a game was with a light gun, and even then there weren’t many games that used such a thing well, especially for home video game systems.

The Time Crisis series has been one of the series most people tend to think of when they think of using a light gun (Duck Hunt and Area 51 being other things that come to mind), and to be fair it earned that.  The games—particularly the arcade games—tended to be interesting and fun.  The console version, on the other hand, well—let’s just say it wasn’t going to win any new fans of the series.

The worst aspect was also a necessary one.  In the arcade version of the game you had a foot pedal that you pressed to duck.  In the home version, there was a button on the side of the gun for that.  While a necessary change (since that’s better than asking gamers to shell out an extra twenty dollars for a pedal peripheral), it made the game somewhat more awkward to play.  Further, there was an attempt to make boss fights more interesting, by having to duck and move in specific patterns.  You moved by shooting arrows on the screen at the right time, which was rather interesting, but it made the game more about that pattern-recognition than actually firing your weapon accurately.  On the whole, Project Titan was one that would now only likely be remembered by Time Crisis enthusiasts.

Sonic Adventure 2
Ahh, the Dreamcast.  One of these days I may write up an ode to that lost-but-not-forgotten console, but for now we’ll turn our attention to Sonic Adventure 2, one of the last Sonic titles that was generally well-received.

That said, it also introduced Shadow the Hedgehog, who later starred in his own game, one that, put nicely, was not well-received.

The plot of Adventure 2 was rather fitting for the series up to that point—incredibly simplistic, one best not thought too deeply about, but incredibly fun.  Basically, Robotnik discovers/uncovers Shadow, and the two skip along their merry way to cause havoc and destruction, and Sonic has to go stop them.  Classic, really.  Interestingly, it had a sort of “branching” system, where you could play as one of three “good” characters, or one of three “bad” characters.  It wasn’t convoluted and actually fit the series well enough.  If only later titles could have the same things said about them, but we digress.

Hot Wired
Whoo, boy, driving games don’t get a whole lot worse than this one.  Seriously, it’s a stinker.  Thought it couldn’t get worse than Driv3r?  Think again.

You had numerous different cities—and by “different cities” we really mean the same city only called different things at different points.  Everything looked the same—well, the roads got a little more twisty, but that’s about it.  Nothing else was really affected.  When you get chased by the police—which is pretty much the entire point of the game—their entire plan is to ram into you.  No spike strips, road blocks, nothing.  The police in Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, a game released three years earlier, had a better sense of tactics than that.  Looked more interesting, too.

The game play itself was really “hold down the accelerator and weave a little”.  That’s basically it.  You couldn’t look behind you so you could never be sure where, exactly, the police were (but since they really weren’t concerned with anything beyond trying to shove their cars into yours, it wasn’t a huge issue), collision-detection was hit-or-miss (no pun intended), and the A.I. governing everything from the police to pedestrian vehicles was, in a word, terrible.

On the other hand, car wrecks tended to look rather cool.  That’s about the only good thing that could really be said about it, though.

                        *                        *                        *

That’s all for this week, folks.  See you on Monday!

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