This week in video game history . . . it’s a dog eat dog world, it’s time to split again, we look at Resident Evil (but with swords), and a greatly overlooked Sega console.
This week in 2006, Rockstar Games released Bully, also known as Canis Canem Edit.
Bully is an open-world adventure and plays much like entries in Rockstar’s most famous series – Grand Theft Auto. And, as it takes place mostly on foot, Bully is unique, which actually takes getting used to for GTA veterans. Eventually, some vehicles are obtained, such as a Moped, a Skateboard, and a Go-Kart. In it, you play a hot-headed rebellious child named James “Jimmy” Hopkins, who has been sent away to Bullworth Academy, a private boarding school. Like GTA, missions take place in various locations in and around the school, as well as, the surrounding town of Bullworth.
Bullworth: A Mini San Andreas
Bully acknowledges that a school is very much a microcosm of a typical Grand Theft Auto city, with its own authorities, laws, services, unique locations and, like GTA, Gangs. Although the Gangs (or “Cliques”) of Bully are far less menacing, they do have their own style, ethos, rivals, and territories. These Cliques are very much what you would expect. You have your Nerds, your Jocks, and bike loving Greasers. You also have your Townies, who are not pupils of Bullworth Academy, the rich and pretentious Preppies, and the self-explanatory Bullies.
The game begins when Jimmy, a boy from a troubled home, is dropped off at the academy by his mother and step-dad. He is soon introduced to Headmaster Dr. Crabblesnitch, who advises him to “keep his nose clean.” When he befriends senior student Gary Smith, Jimmy and Gary team up to take on the bullies. This then leads Jimmy to work for, and eventually fight against, the school’s various cliques. Although Jimmy can be called a bully himself, he is more of a bully for good, a bully of the bullies who fights against injustice, for what he believes is right, and in defense of the underdog.
Lessons in Gameplay
Bully features multiple mechanics that are all aspects of everyday school life, which makes for a fun and nostalgic video game experience. Jimmy can fist fight his fellow pupils, prefects, and academy staff, which includes teachers. He can also, of course, engage in bullying and finding a girlfriend or boyfriend. Naturally, some of these activities can land Jimmy in detention, which functions as a slightly tedious mini-game. During the seasons of Spring, Summer, and Autumn, this involves mowing a small patch of grass, to a whole football field. In the Winter, Jimmy will have to shovel snow.
Of course, it wouldn’t be school if Jimmy did not attend any classes. These occur twice a game day, and are also mini-games. In Chemistry class, Jimmy completes several experiments that function like a rhythm game, as does Shop class in which Jimmy works on a bike. In English, Jimmy has to use his language skills to find as many words as he can in a jumble of letters. Art class resembles the game-play of the arcade game Qix. Gym combines Dodgeball and Wrestling against the different cliques. Finally, Photography tasks Jimmy with navigating and photographing different Bullworthian landmarks within a time limit.
These aren’t completely pointless, as completing these tasks can unlock weapons such as firecrackers, stink bombs and itching powder. They also upgrade interaction abilities to be more effective, such as providing a health boost, unlocking fighting moves, improve weapon skills, and double the amount of tickets Jimmy can win at the annual Bullworth carnival.
The game was retitled Canis Canem Edit in PAL regions because of controversy surrounding its original title. It was thought that the title Bully somehow glamorised, trivialised, and even incited the act of bullying. Canis Canem Edit is a Latin phrase that loosely translates to “Dog Eat Dog”.
TimeSplitters 2 (2002)
Also this week, a fine first-person shooter celebrated the 15th anniversary of its release – TimeSplitters 2. TimeSplitters 2 is the second entry in an FPS series created by Free Radical Design.
It’s Time To Split
Beginning in the year 2401, Timesplitters 2 opens up during a war between the humans and the eponymous Timesplitters, an alien race who rather fancy the destruction of mankind. At least the Timesplitters are creative about it, as they attempt to utilize the power of special items known as “Time Crystals” which allows the handler the ability to travel through time. The intention of the Timesplitters is to do so while screwing up as much of humanity’s progression as they can, in an effort to orchestrate mankind’s demise. Pretty cool, right?
The adventure begins when the heroes of TimeSplitters 2, Vin Diesel look-alike Sergeant Cortez and Corporal Hart encounter the Timesplitters, who are in possession of multiple crystals at an Earth Space Station which they have overrun. But, those pesky Timesplitters have each taken a crystal and escaped through a recently activated time portal into various time periods to avoid being captured. So, in order to recover all of the crystals, Cortez ventures into each time period to find the ugly alien interlopers, retrieve each Time Crystal, and return, while Hart stays behind to keep the other Timesplitters at bay.
What is especially fun about Timesplitters, besides the humor, brilliant multiplayer, and cartoonish animation aside, is the variety of potential locations combined with potential time periods that could be visited. TimeSplitters 2 chose locations from all over, including: a Dam in 90’s Siberia (which is a direct homage to the opening level of N64 game Golden Eye 007), 1930’s Chicago, the 19th century Notre Dame Cathedral, and a mysterious planet known as ‘Planet X’ in the 23rd century. Interestingly, the opening level took up around half of the games 23 month development time.
Each mission has, unlike its predecessor, specific objectives that must be completed in order to finish the level. These objectives are also dependant on the difficulty setting. The games MapMaker mode is something in which I sank more game time than the actual single-player campaign. The easy-to-use MapMaker, which can appear fairly complex at first, allows players the ability to create their own stages. The MapMaker appeared in the first TimeSplitters, but, for the first time, a player defined story can be created, or even an arcade style all-out killathon. Map builders can design the level from the ground up, choose weapon and enemy sets and even control enemy movements, spawn location and objectives.
In Japan, TS2 was titled Time Splitter: Invaders of History. Sadly, and almost inexplicably, it omitted the MapMaker mode.
The series got a second sequel in (arguably the best entry) TimeSplitters: Future Perfect. A further entry, tentatively titled TimeSplitters 4, was in development for around a year. However, when developer Free Radical Design was acquired by German developer Crytek, the game was put on indefinite hold until Crytek felt the time was right for such a game. When is it ever the wrong time for more?
Devil May Cry (2001)
16 years ago, Capcom released Devil May Cry, a stylish, cinematic, gothic hack n slash adventure classic.
The Legendary Dark Son
Devil May Cry opens with a young, brash, and cocky white haired bounty hunter called Dante who is challenged by a mysterious woman named Trish. She assaults the office of Dante’s bounty hunter business, from which we get the title Devil May Cry, in an effort to test his ability as the rumored offspring of a great and legendary demon warrior named Sparda. She wishes to acquire Dante’s services, but first would like to test his abilities. He quickly asserts himself as a formidable fighter by easily brushing off her onslaught. She then tells Dante of a demon emperor named Mundus who is prophesied to return at a location known as Mallet Island and she would like Dante’s help in stopping him. Mundus is also the party that Dante holds responsible for the death of his parents. And so, Dante agrees to take the job.
Devil May Cry was directed by Hideki Kamiya, who is arguably most famous for taking the directorial reins of legendary survival horror sequel Resident Evil 2, which makes sense when you come to know that Devil May Cry began life as Resident Evil 4. RE4 development was actually launched not long after Resident Evil 2, in 1998. Following the success of RE2, Capcom began multiple Resident Evil projects. This already included Resident Evil 3: Nemesis.
RE3 was a little bit of a rush job as Capcom wished for another RE title for the original PlayStation. It was also helmed by someone other than Kamiya, which may explain why it is so divisive in fan circles. RE3 began as a game starring the mysterious operative HUNK aboard a luxury cruise liner riddled with some G-Virus nastiness. It was directed by Kazuhiro Aoyama, an inexperienced director who was promoted to the role so Hideki Kamiya could focus on RE4, getting it ready in time PlayStations next console.
With the intention of creating a game in the Resident Evil series with an emphasis on stylish combat, RE4’s design goal ended up spawning a game which was vastly different from what could be described as a Resident Evil game or even a horror game, especially when swords and acrobatics were introduced.
The original Resident Evil 4 story centered on a man known only as ‘Tony’ who was discovered to possess invincibility and an intellect vastly superior to that of normal humans, all thanks to the possession of internal nanomachines. His parents, Lord Oswell Spencer and his wife, were to be the founder of Resident Evil’s shady mega corporation Umbrella. Most of the game’s characters remained the same for DMC, except for Tony’s parents, who were omitted when Tony became Dante.
Devil May Cry introduced new concepts to video games, such as the Style Rank, rating the players stylish execution of moves and effective destruction of enemies, and Devil Trigger, a mode in which Dante channels his inner demon to greatly increase his speed, power, and attributes.
The series spawned 2 sequels, a prequel, and a reboot and cemented Dante as a popular video game icon. Devil May Cry also resulted in the creation of a short anime series, two light novels, two manga volumes, a comic book adaptation, and a novelization of Devil May Cry 4 which had extra scenes not seen in the game that were omitted due to time constraints.
A film adaptation has also been in the works since 2011, though it appears to be stuck in development. It is said to be based on the reboot DmC: Devil May Cry, and due to fan pressure will star a Dante that will look truer to his original design.
Sega Mark III (1985)
In 1985, Sega launched the successor to their SG-1000 and SG-1000 Mark II consoles, the Sega Mark III, which would be renamed to the Master System when the machine moved to production for the North American and European markets in 1986.
It was when Sega was a subsidiary of Gulf & Western (an American conglomerate), and around the time of the waning in the arcade machine market, that Sega launched itself into home video game console manufacturing, starting with it’s inaugural machine, the SG-1000. The SG-1000 failed to push Nintendo off its pedestal thanks to the success of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)/Famicom. Learning from its initial foray, Sega developed a new console which was intended to be more powerful than the NES/Famicom.
The Mark III
The later name, Master System, was chosen from one of many, and was said to have been chosen by throwing darts at a whiteboard. However, with Sega’s intention to create a cheaper model of the console called the Base System, the name may have already been a frontrunner. The Mark III launched in Japan and, despite being technologically superior to Nintendo’s Famicom, its launch was not a success.
It was about this time that Sega started to develop its own titles, learning from Nintendo, who had acquired exclusivity for many of its titles from 3rd party developers. Alas, Sega’s own games were not to be major sellers, nor were the games to which they acquired exclusive rights.
North America and Europe
A year later, around the same time as when Nintendo began selling their redesigned NES in North America and Europe, Sega launched their redesigned Mark III in the same regions, as the new model Master System. Once again, Sega failed to defeat Nintendo. In fact, the NES outsold the Master System by almost 9-to-1. Despite being the superior machine, Sega blamed the failure of the Master System on an extreme lack of marketing effort.
United Kingdom sales were the first sign of success for the Master System, all thanks to a simple but effective marketing campaign, and a lack of convincing rival marketing by Nintendo with its NES. The Master System was distributed by a company called Mastertronic, who retailed the machine for £99 (approximately £250 in 2017), and promoted it as an “arcade in the home” and later as a superior alternative to the cheap ZX Spectrum, and it’s pricier, yet more powerful competitor, the Commodore 64. They also focused on creating faithful and genuine arcade ports for the system.
It seemed, however, that pre-orders in the UK were unprecedentedly high, and Sega failed to deliver machines in time for Christmas the year of it’s launch, with some machines only available as late as Boxing Day, resulting in the cancellation of many orders. Regardless of these events, and failing to outdo Nintendo, the Master System began Sega’s ascension to become a true challenger to Nintendo, maintaining a significant grip on the European market right throughout the era of it’s successor and their peak of success, the Mega Drive.
While not their first console, The Master System was their first real stepping stone. This allowed Sega to experiment with arcade ports, learn about creating its own original intellectual property and the value of marketing. It had gained some ground, albeit minor, in the video game market, and they also learned the value of having a video game mascot in this era with the invention of Fantasy Zones fat little green ship Opa-Opa and Alex Kidd. All of this greatly benefited the development and eventual success of the Mega Drive, a console that, when combined with the legendary icon Sonic the Hedgehog, would finally overcome the mighty Nintendo.