Tag Archives: activision

A chance to reconsider Crash, maybe

Yesterday Activision announced that their HD remaster of the PlayStation Crash Bandicoot trilogy — newly dubbed the N. Sane Trilogy, because without a name what kind of gravitas could a trilogy possibly have? — will arrive June 30, almost exactly a year after its announcement at last year’s Sony E3 press conference. Now that I’m over the cognitive dissonance of Activision publishing Crash (when I was a lad, that was a Sony franchise, thank you very much), I find myself looking forward to the N. Sane Trilogy.

I am not, to be honest, a fan of Crash… which is precisely why I’m eager to try the new HD reissue. I don’t feel I really gave the Crash games a fair shake back in the day. The original game was part of the late 1996 wave of first-party publishers attempting to take platform action games into 3D, along with Super Mario 64 from Nintendo and NiGHTs: Into Dreams from SEGA. I was on the outs with Nintendo consoles at the time and starting to develop an appreciation for the PlayStation vision, so I should have been the target audience for Naughty Dog’s platformers… but they didn’t do it for me at all. Super Mario 64 was so grand, so impressive, that the other publishers’ respective forays into that space left me cold.

I don’t think that’s unreasonable, in the context of the times. Super Mario 64 felt like the future, a fully open 3D platform game that not only pulled the genre into a new dimension, quite literally, but also did it with style and refinement. Yeah, there would be better 3D platformers, but Nintendo got so much right with Mario 64. By comparison, Crash’s linear into-the-screen design felt like playing, say, S.T.U.N. Runner compared to Mario 64‘s DOOM.

At the time, there was also a suffocating sense within the media and the tiny little online gaming community that existed in 1996 that game design was a one-way journey: Progress or nothing. If a game didn’t shatter the bounds of technology and design, it wasn’t worth your time. S.T.U.N. Runner ceased to be fun once DOOM came into being, and Super Mario 64 mooted any game that restricted action to a mere two axes. This, of course, is nonsense, but it would be a few years before I became dislodged from that way of thinking and found a happy medium between that mindset and its “hardcore” USENET opposite, which posited that the value of a given game was directly proportionate to its age.

Now that I’m older and wise enough to recognize that a game can be great without pushing any particular envelopes, I want to go back and reconsider Crash. Maybe I was wrong about it, and there’s something great there despite being relatively less ambitious than Super Mario 64. Then again, maybe not — big first-party games cause a certain degree of blindness among the first-party faithful (hence the popularity of Smash Bros.…), so maybe Crash‘s adulating fans are simply suffering from an overdose of Kool-Aid. Either way, I’m eager to see for myself.

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Retronauts episode 85: The golden days of Activision

Hi everyone, I’ve landed in Tokyo and settled in for the night after being awake for about 26 hours straight. Please forgive me if I keep this entry short and to the point, because at this point I’m not entirely certainly I’m not hallucinating everything.

This week’s episode looks back to 1979 and the birth of Activision, a company that had a profound impact on the business of video games. Without Activision, the industry would look very, very different. A perfect storm of great timing, strong financial backing, and top-flight programming and game design came together in the form of this company to prove that third-party publishing could be a viable and valuable video game business model. Steve Lin and Jaz Rignall join us to chronicle the circumstances that led to Activision’s creation, the games they produced, and the great successes they had until their business model began to fizzle… which is to say, this show covers Activision until it became Mediagenic. (For more on that, I highly recommend the Activision/Infocom/Mediagenic retrospectives at The Digitial Antiquarian — they were enormously valuable as we planned this podcast!)

Steve Lin and Jaz Rignall join Jeremy and Bob again to look back at one of the most important game creators of all time: Activision, the company that established the concept of third parties.

Libsyn (1:41:34, 70.8 MB) | MP3 Download | SoundCloud)

As for musical interludes this time… well, there wasn’t really much I could pull in terms of music from Activision’s Atari 2600 era. Instead, I looked to the late ’80s for some tasty FM synth tunes. This episode’s music selections come from Shanghai, Shanghai II: The Dragon’s Eye, and Ghostbusters for Genesis. Enjoy!

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Retronauts Volume III Episode 15: Retro Compilations

Retronauts 15 cover
As I left the studio after recording this episode, I remarked that I always seem to do the episodes where there’s about 9,000 different examples to discuss. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment — both in trying to tackle the volume, and getting the feedback that always starts with “They forgot…” Well then, pardon me as I gorge on the history of retro game compilations.

My interest in multi-title old game packs is surprisingly strong, thanks to products like Microsoft Arcade and the original Namco Museum series (which we mention on the show, of course). A part of me enjoys seeing what companies will re-release next, though these days, I’m left wanting more bonus content; something that more clearly curates material instead of dumping it. Namco Musuem used to do this well, but now? Eh, as long as the menu works, right? Of course, as a proponent of game preservation, I can’t always expect corporate entities to go digging in the back room if it’s not going to help make money, but I still think all these gatekeepers of classic content could stand to have a little more pride in what got them here. Nevertheless, some compilations have interesting-slash-amusing stories behind them, like the Sega Smash Pack series. And then there’s just the fact that Japan’s M2 does amazing emulation work. It’s an admittedly light topic for Retronauts, but I think that’s a plus — a little meta, what with discussing the history of collections of history, but easygoing.

Our fourth chair this week is the affable Gary Butterfield from Watch Out for Fireballs, lending a reasoned voice to the discussion. He’ll be back next week for Pocket, as well. Listen, enjoy, and keep in mind that as I left the studio, I came up with a handful of other compilations I could’ve mentioned.

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This episode’s breakdown:

  • 00:00 | Introductions
  • 04:58 | Beginnings: Golden Oldies, Microsoft Arcade
  • 12:01 | Music: Namco Museum Vol. 5: Museum
  • 12:38 | Activision, Mario, Sega Smash Pack series
  • 30:32 | Music: Namco Museum Vol. 1: Museum
  • 31:02 | Intellivision Lives, Sonic Jam, Namco Museum series, other PlayStation import collections
  • 59:04 | Music: Namco Museum Essentials: Menu
  • 59:47 | Attack of the NES games, other GBA collections
  • 1:11:10 | Capcom Classics Collection
  • 1:14:26 | Sega Ages series
  • 1:20:20 | More recent compilations (Sega, Capcom, SNK, Vectrex, etc.)
  • 1:24:17 | NES Remix and the future of compilations
  • 1:32:27 | Plugs and outro (Music: Namco Museum Essentials: Credits)

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