There are some game designers out there that have extraordinary visions for new games. Some of them have undertaken ambitious projects that put them under intense strain, like Jordan Mechner (Prince of Persia) and Eric Chahi (Out of this World), both of whom made games with very small teams and limited resources. Then there are those with greater resources that push the envelope with big budget titles like Ken Levine (BioShock) and Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War). However there are also those whose vision exceeds practicality. Probably the most well known developer like this is Peter Molyneux, who is notorious for heading projects that promise the stars, but a ultimately hindered by what is feasibly possible with that is available. This is not to say that all these projects end in disaster. The original Fable, although not as grandiose as promised, was still an enjoyable adventure game and Black & White, a simulation game similar to Sid Mier’s Civilization, was given critical acclaim at release.
Almost every film version of Bram Stoker’s classic novel Dracula has deemed it necessary to change major elements of the plot. The original Universal film changed names, character motives, and omitted major events. The Hammer film Horror of Dracula remained closer to the book, but still changed major plot points and names. Some more recent pictures have deliberately set out to change things in order to keep the story fresh, such as Dracula 2000, in which the Count is really Judas Iscariot, cursed by god to live forever, or Dracula Untold, wherein Dracula is really Vlad Tepes, a Romanian nobleman who willingly took on the vampire curse to save his people.
The Nintendo 64 and the PlayStation give us some of the greatest games of all time. With systems capable of using full 3D, everyone wanted to take advantage of it. Nintendo managed to very smoothly transition some of their best franchises to 3D, with titles like Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Sony came in strong with brand new franchises, like Crash Bandicoot and Oddworld. 3D gaming was revolutionary, and the sixth console generation was in instrumental step in forming the groundwork for later great console games. But lost in the flood of 3D titles was the potential for advanced 2D gaming.
Author Michael Crichton often dabbled in other skills besides writing. He directed the sci-fi film Westworld in 1973, and later the period piece The Great Train Robbery in ’79. In the early 80’s, Crichton started to get interested in computer games. He taught himself basic, and after teaming up with a programmer and artist, set about designing an adventure game around his recently released jungle adventure novel Congo. Unfortunately for the project, Crichton did not realize that he had already sold the rights to the novel and could not base their game on it. After some hasty tweaks and alterations, Crichton and his team released Amazon. In essence it is the same story as Congo, but with a change of setting, some characters renamed, and set pieces altered.
I’ve often thought that the genre of videogames tailor made for expansive storytelling was the point and click adventure. In its heyday, adventure games were some of the most imaginative games around. They could take a player to very imaginative places and involve them in the progression of a story much more intimately than most action games. Games from Sierra and Lucas Arts could tell deep or shallow stories with superb writing in games like King’s Quest and Grim Fandango, Cyan Worlds produced the mind-bending settings of the Myst series, and Tell-Tale Games has used the medium to expand on the stories of popular franchises like The Walking Dead and Batman. These games have shown the versatility and expanded the story telling abilities of the genre through the years.
Movie licensed games can be handled in many different ways. Sometimes they can be really imaginative experiences that put the player into the midst of the film’s action. SunSoft’s adaptation of Batman (1989) on the NES is a good example of this, a fantastic action platformer set right at the climax of the film to let you feel the thrill of being a superhero. Other times they can be companion pieces to the film that expand on the characters and plot. Atari’s Enter the Matrix (2003) was an ambitious project that resolved key plot points of the second Matrix film to make the game a cannon part of the larger franchise. One of the stranger possibilities is when a developer doesn’t know what to do with a game and makes multiple versions across many platforms that retell the events of the film. Ocean Software developed four different video game adaptations of Sam Raimi’s Darkman (1991) across the NES, Gameboy, and several home computers, all of which offer slightly different retellings of the movie. Today’s game is an example of a company taking a different and rather lazy approach to a movie license.
Growing up I never saw very much of PC gaming. I was mainly exposed to consoles in those years, but whenever I visited a friend or relative I was always excited to see new games, no matter what they were on. One day I recall visiting an Uncle’s home and him showing my brother and I Prince of Persia on his computer. Although I did not remember the name and could barely even begin to figure how to play it, I was struck by the realistic movement of the characters. Years later, I rediscovered the game when its reboot, The Sands of Time, was released. I was totally in love with the game, and when I got a copy of the original on Gameboy, I played it until I memorized the whole thing. A few years later, after gaining access to a Super Nintendo, I found a version produced by Konami and was very impressed with the expansions made on the home console version. But one day, I was browsing a used game shop and came across a copy of Prince of Persia 2 on SNES. I had no idea there was a sequel, and bought it right then and there. However, I was grossly disappointed to find a strange, broken, mess of a game that was so bad I didn’t wonder that it was not remembered by fans. Rather upset, I returned the game and moved on to other things.