This week in video game history: a famous bounty hunter arrives in the United States, Zeus resurrects a centurion to save his daughter Athena, a time-skipping RPG gets a dimension-jumping sequel, and a survival horror movie adaptation sequel arrives on PC and PS2.
30 YEARS GO …
On August 15th of 1987, Metroid would be released in the United States (a full year after Japan), kicking off what would become a 10-game franchise with another recently announced and tentatively titled Metroid 4 in the works.
Metroid is a portmanteau of ‘Metro’ and ‘Android’, alluding to the hero Samus’s robot-esque features and the games underground setting. Speaking of that famous suit – Samus’s suit under the suit otherwise known as the “Zero Suit,” a kind of protective body suit, was actually a function of American censorship. In the Japanese version of one of Metroid’s follow-ups, Super Metroid, Samus would be shown naked when her outer suit would explode. This was deemed too risqué for the eyes of American youth. To cover this up, creators birthed the “Zero Suit” and made it canon.
Ever wondered why Samus never crawls? If you answered ‘Yes’ then I can assume you may have never programmed any video games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Even Metroid’s great developers struggled to animate a nice Samus crawl. This resulted in the creation of the “Morph Ball,” a much simpler animation that became a series staple. The intention to make Samus crawl remained until the release of the Game Boy Advance remake Metroid: Zero Mission in which she finally crawled. It was an animation 18 years in the making.
28 YEARS AGO…
RISE FROM YOUR GRAVE!! On August 14th in 1989, Altered Beast is released in the United States. Altered Beast begins when the ancient Greek thunder god, Zeus, resurrects a centurion, a deceased officer of the Roman army who died in battle. Zeus bestows upon the centurion transformative powers in a bid to rescue his daughter, Athena, from the demon god, Neff, deep in the Underworld.
Following its arcade success, the game would be ported to many different platforms. A memorable brawler, Altered Beast would become Sega’s first pack in title for their then brand spanking new console, the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive. Eventually, it would be replaced by Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991.
The NES version of Altered Beast is unique; it adds 3 new stages and even adds 2 nice new transformations – a Bird and a Shark. Conversely, the Sega Master System version simply removes the level that features the ‘Tiger’ transformation.
There are creatures known as ‘Bizarrians’ in Altered Beast which may seem familiar, as they also appeared as one of the saddled creatures in another famous Sega beat-em-up: Golden Axe. Though here they’d be known as ‘Chicken-Legs’ – could they be set in the same universe?
Interestingly, in its original arcade outing… Oh, and ** Spoiler Alert ** the game is revealed to be some sort of elaborate piece of stage theatre.
17 years ago…
On August 15th, 2000, Square released its anticipated follow up to legendary RPG Chrono Trigger in the form of Chrono Cross.
Continuing the alternating realms aspect of Chrono Trigger, which takes place across all manner of different eras of time from the prehistoric to far future, Chrono Cross (as the name suggests) takes place across two different dimensions. Although it is not a direct sequel to Chrono Trigger, several sub-missions reference its predecessor.
The game centers around its hero Serge, a boy who one day when walking along a beach with his love interest suddenly disappears. He then awakens several months later. At first everything seems normal, but he soon discovers that the people of his home town do not recognize him.
Chrono Cross contains a few unique aspects – over the course of its storyline the game contains 40 playable characters. What’s more, each of these 40 individuals have their own unique speech pattern. So as to not to create a unique line of dialogue for every single character, a sub-program was created that alters the dialogue for each character instead. Genius!
Chrono Cross also features 10 possible endings. However, only 2 are available initially. The other 8 are possible in a second playthrough. A nice touch that ensures some replay value.
Most of Chrono Cross’s ideas come from a text adventure for the Japan-exclusive NES/Famicom add-on, the Satellaview, which allowed the downloading of game content and full games. This included a 16-bit remake of the original Legend of Zelda for the Super Famicom. This text adventure is called Radical Dreamers (with background graphics). It was a kind of spin-off to Chrono Trigger and featured Serge. Though, Chrono Cross would itself be a particularly different game.
15 years ago…
And finally, a decade and a half ago this week, The Thing is released for PC and PlayStation 2 in the United States.
A squad based 3rd person shooter, The Thing is not so much an adaptation of John Carpenter’s original sci-fi horror movie classic, but a sequel which immediately picks up after the events of the 1982 film. Trust is an important aspect of gameplay; if you know anything about the movie then you know that it creates many tense moments and psychological horror through increasing paranoia among its characters. As the story continues, it becomes clear that not everyone is who they seem. The Thing does a superb job of turning this paranoia and distrust into a game mechanic.
Halfway through the game, you will encounter a character called Dr. Faraday. He is the head of the corporation Gen Inc. He may seem familiar as he is none other than John Carpenter himself, his face was scanned into the game specifically for this character.
The 1982 movie is, in fact, a remake of The Thing from Another World by Howard Hawks, which itself is based on a 1943 short story by John W. Campbell Who Goes There?