So on this installment we'll be looking back at video games released that year. I will be strictly talking about the US dates only & the only ports I'll be discussing are notable ports that also reflect on the kind of hardware that was available at that time.
The first new console to be released this year was not a home console, but a portable handheld. The GBA came out on March 21st & I remember seeing an advert for this while watching Kids WB during an airing of 'Samurai Jack' of all things.
This was the exact crazy fuckery that I saw on saturday morning cartoons.
Then in November 18th the Gamecube appeared on the scene & I'll never forget the first time I found out about this. It was the summer of 2001 & my dad took me & my older sister to Super K-Mart. Remember K-mart? Yeah, that chain is as dead as Woolworths. We were walking from the parking lot & into the store there was a huge banner that had Luigi, an X-Wing, some thingies called 'Pikmin' along with a guy in a jet ski & the console in the center with the words 'Coming Soon.' Sadly I can't find the exact banner I saw but I did find one close to it.
Let's get started.
Now this first title will resonate with a lot of you & for all I know some of you were there day one when this hit. 'Runescape'.”
I was a bit too late to the game, I didn't start playing until a decade later when a high school friend of mine sold me on this little browser MMORPG at the library's computer lab. It is what it is, this was one of the early 'Free to Play/Pay to Advance' games that are now common in mobile gaming. All I can say is I've made it up to level 2 & stopped because I was more into console gaming at the time. I only had half the possesion of a desktop computer so Runescape was something I could not commit to full time. The graphics, this is one where if you're not a fan of polygonal PSone styled graphics then you're easily going to shrug this game off. Luckily a lot of you who were playing this at the time attest to the age old fact that graphics don't make the game.
Alot of these games I did not play in until later or did play at a friends' house. Actually I can say this for a lot of the titles on here. Luckily the early version of this game can still be downloaded & played without any of that complicated mod stuff. Now you can actually take your character on the go & sign on to your runescape account with the app & grind on the go.
Onto the first Nintendo property here, 'Paper Mario' was released this year & while this game was released before the Gamecube's launch, I'm surprised it managed to be a hit this far into the N64 lifespan. Especially today, this is one thing that does annoy me with modern gaming culture & that is this cult, snobbish mentality when a new console is on the horizon.
“Oh a new console? Let's jump to that & scoff at the last generation because this is the new generation!!!!” Then start bitching like bitchfaced YouTubers when the Ouya or Stadia Pro doesn't meet expectations.
Paper Mario was kinda the last great hit of the N64. In case you're curious, the last N64 game to be released was in 2002 & it was 'Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3', a very inferior version of the PS2, Xbox & GBA game. It's even more inferior than the GBA game, can you believe that? All I can say is the graphics are that N64 blurry textures & the music plays on a compressed loop, just like the last two N64 Tony Hawk games. Paper Mario is for the people who loved 'Super Mario RPG' but it sports a completely unique art style with a very cardboard crayon drawn style, similar to the style that Yoshi's Island is in. Unlike other turn based JRPG games, this is one that I can see as a either a teaching tool or a neat introduction to other JRPGs. It's not too complex, very easy to get into compared to something like a CRPG where the game demands you to get in-depth with stats, inventory & skills.
My bad, the last big hit that really got people talking about the N64 was 'Conker's Bad Fur Day'. This was a game that I played for a short while because I had those friends that would invite everyone to watch the game, but would never want to play Multiplayer. It was crude, raunchy & pretty graphically impressive for the time. Also to turn a traditionally child friendly character into this M-rated grossout comedy was really something unique in 01. This was the last hoorah for Rare back until they got bought off by Microsoft. At this point all rare games were released to Xbox, but surprisingly they did not buy off the handheld rights to Rare's library, which is why Nintendo managed to release 'Donkey Kong Country' for the GBA.
The GBA got a very interesting version of 'Zone of the Enders' that was more Tactical turn based side story taking place in the same universe, but that version would not arrive in the states until a year later.
The last N64 Pokemon game, Pokemon Stadium 2. What can I say other than it's the same as Pokemon Stadium but now you can use Johto Pokemon & upload your pokemon from Gold, Silver & Crystal save files.
To all of you who don't understand Pokemon, did you understand what I just said?
Now I remember renting this one from the local video store. All you people praising Blockbuster, why? You never rented movies until you rented movies from a local mom & pop shop. So anyways I rented this game as it hit their shelves & I could not play this to save my life. Didn't come with a manual so I didn't understand why Mario was a doctor & why he was tossing pills into this jar with the viruses in that jar.
'Dr.Mario 64' was pretty confusing to me. That's all. If I played it now I may have a better grasp at the game than I did back then.
Starting in 1998 it seemed like Nintendo was booting up a tradition to bring about a yearly Mario Party game because 'Mario Party 3' hit store shelves this year. I don't know if I played this one or not. All I know is my friends invited me to play it one time & it was a bunch of Mario character balancing themselves on a big beach ball above a small platform surrounded by water. The object was to push each other off the platform. I cannot differentiate one from the second or the third. They all looked the same.
-Mario Party 3
-Super Mario Advance
-Mario Kart: Super Circuit
Don't know if you want to include the spinoffs but then you also had 'Luigi's Mansion' and 'WarioLand 4'. With the N64 titles I can see them as unloading those titles before the release of the new console. You'd think fans would get dilluted & burnt out of Mario, but none of these games skipped on the fun & replayability. Just shows how innovative & dedicated Nintendo was, especially now.
'Red Faction', or as I like to call it 'What if Paul Verehoven made a video game.' The game oozes so much of the Total Recall/Starship Troopers aesthetic & I love it for that! This game was before Halo, but this game was like the last FPS of the previous generation before FPS games started becoming more serious to a point it became a bit annoying. It wasn't quite Halo, but it also wasn't primitive like Goldeneye 64. This game takes an almost comical & gleeful view of being a violent killing machine which is something last generation dabbled on a bit but lets face it most FPS games wanted to be Call of Duty.
I highly recommend this game if you love that retro futurist look & missed the days when video games didn't take themselves way too seriously.
And now a game that your mom, auntie or grandma has played. All of you younger folks may not be able to grasp the fact that before smart phones people played Bejeweled on their desktop computers. You heard that right, 2001 was the debut of Bejeweled & that same game has been ported over & over & over again to countless systems! I think I played this back during the MySpace days when there wasn't as much of anything to do on the internet. It may have been a variation like I don't know, Bejewelled: Shippuden or something like that. It is what it is, a time killing puzzle. Sadly a game like this is old hat now that you got these Candy Crush games & those Soda Pop Crush & whatever the fuck name they come up with that ends in 'Crush'. Look, I love puzzle games as much as the next guy but come on, this is ridiculous.
Castlevania: Circle of The Moon got me fucked up. I am not good at this game, in fact I'm not good at any metroid-vania kind of game. I start the game & early on I ask myself, “Where the fuck do I go?” To make matters more complex there's an RPG system implemented to this so now I gotta worry about what kinda armor or spell or whatever I need to use & then there's the grinding. Grinding in an RPG & JRPG can sometimes really halt the game to a stand still. Then there's the thing with the cards where no matter how much time I spend grinding the cards never show up when I need them. Also if you find a card followed by dying without saving, then that card is long gone & that same card is not in the same place you found it! Randomly generated cards in randomly generated sports, that's bullshit. Good god this game is frustrating as hell to me. The graphics look nice, there's a ton of gameplay for your buck & I own the cardboard box for it. It's quite a lengthy game compared to the the standard fare the GBA was putting out this early in its lifespan. If you're into these kinds of games then you'll dig it. I can't say it's a horrible game, just frustrating to me.
So 'Super Mario Advance' came out for the GBA & it's very much a remastered version of 'Super Mario Bros 2', or as I used to call it 'The Radish One'. Why remaster a sequel? Not a bad remaster if you ask me, it wouldn't be a year later when 'Super Mario World' is ported to the GBA & lets people determine whether or not the GBA is worthy of the label of a handheld SNES.
I should add that along with Castlevania: Circle of The Moon & Super Mario Advance, more launch titles (Half were ports) were released for the GBA such as:
-Chu Chu Rocket, a port of the Dreamcast game.
-Earthworm Jim. I heard this one was pretty inferior to the SNES & Genisis games.
-Rayman Advance, a port of the PSone game from 1996And two original racing games 'Konami Krazy Racers' (Konami's Mario Kart clone) and my favorite, 'F-Zero: Maximum Velocity'.
With F-Zero you have to put it into perspective that the last F-Zero game that was released was in 1998 with 'F-Zero X' on the N64. So to have this new entry in the series taking after the SNES utilizing 'Mode 7' was a throwback game before the term 'Throwback' was in vogue. Mode 7 is the kind of graphics where it gives off this look of smooth 3-D textures, despite it being flatly 2-D. Several SNES & a few Sega Genesis games took up this kind of style and both systems pushed hardware specs with these kinds of graphics. So F-Zero: Maximum Velocity was very welcoming, my problem came with the copy I got from 'Game X Crazy' (I know it's called 'Game Crazy' but why did the logo have an 'X' in the center?) That copy I had contained a bum memory chip. I could not save the game so I either played the game for hours just to get as far as I could get or start over every single time I turned on my GBA. I really wanna play this game again.
Two 'Twisted Metal' games appeared on the scene the same year with one serving as a farewell to the PSone & the other as a welcoming to the PS2. Now 'Small Brawl' was coming off of 'Twisted Metal III' which was considered the black sheep of the franchise. The first two games were handled by Sony Entertainment, the third game was done by an offshoot company called '989 Studios' and they also handled another Sony franchise 'Syphon Filter'. Though I did enjoy the game, hardcore fans will say Twisted Metal III was kind of a letdown compared to the second & first game. Small Brawl was a final hoorah for Twisted Metal on the PSone until passing the baton to the PS2 with 'Black'. Twisted Metal Black took this silly, colorful & fun game & just turned it dark, creepy & ultra violent. You can now shoot people with your death machine on wheels. Sweet Tooth went form this wacky colorful clown to this Jigsaw, grungy looking serial killing clown. It's not just dark, it's a black game, hence the title. One thing I find funny is there was a sequel in the works that was eventually abandoned called 'Twisted Metal: Harbor City'. I live in Harbor City! That would have been a trip if it was released. It wouldn't be until the PS2 release for 'Twisted Metal: Head On' where that prototype was included as an extra.
The last 'Final Fantasy' for the PS1 was released in 2001 with 'Final Fantasy Chronicles'. Again, I haven't played all those games but you gotta admit after Nintendo fumbled the ball with not having a JRPG on the console, the PS1 was there to say, “You want 'em? We got 'em!” and made bank.
Final Fantasy Chronicles was just a re-release of 'Final Fantasy IV' and 'Chrono Trigger' onto the PS1. So if I were to jump onto the franchise, I'm betting those two games would be perfect jumping on points. The only FF game I played was 'VII' until the sony hack took that game away from me. Now these are two games that really would benefit from a Nintendo Switch release.
Though I only played this once at a friend's place, this is one of those games that blew people away back in the day. Nowadays it seems video gaming has perfected the realism look of their games with more detail, mocap directing & highly detailed textures of everything from water to the stitching on the clothing. 'Grand Turismo 3: A-Spec' looked real to us, as if you were controlling a real race. I can't say the graphics still look photo-realistic today, but they still look pretty damn good. Polygram Software seems to try to outdo themselves every time, then three years later Grand Turismo 4 came out & that looked much more realistic than the previous game. Then came the Grand Turismo 5: Prologue & same response like the previous games, it looked more realistic than the last game! We even praised the graphics to the PSP version of Grand Turismo & it all began with the third game in 2001.
I'm not into the intricate simulation aspect of those games, but that comes with the fact that I mostly play arcade styled racing games. Turismo demands so much attention to detail at a ridiculous level. I'm speaking for the second game, I'm assuming the sequels get easier. That game demanded too much like specific parts that you need to get a specific rating for speed or turning. If the specs undershoot the target specs then you'll be dead last & the game won't let you race cars more powerful than the others in the race. It's too damn specific which is why I gave up on that second game.
As another welcoming to next gen gaming there was a new Final Fantasy sequel with 'Final Fantasy X' or 10 to all of you non-roman numeral peoples. This is where the series got too weeby for me. The games story & characters all feel like a reiterated anime accompanied with bad dubbing. Too weeby for me, can't deal with it, then there's the tie-in music that's made up of some singing woman. I'm not hating but I feel more inclined to play 1 through 7 & maybe even 9. I felt like once those 'Kingdom Hearts' games started getting popular, that style & direction leaked into Final Fantasy. I'm also not interested in playing a JRPG with Disney characters.
Please don't glomp me.
Now we get to a game I love & know all too well, 'Max Payne'.
Holy fuck, this was something nobody had seen before in video gaming. At this point games were starting to mimick movies to a fucking tee. This game is if David Fincher was making a crime noir while shootouts were guest directed by 'John Woo' & to wrap it all up the dream sequences (There's more than one) are done by David Lynch.
This game is very stylish & it gets pretty fucking creepy at parts. There's a dream level where you have to follow a trail of blood in this pitch black area while all throughout there's a sound of a baby crying. If you fall off the trail the baby's crying grows very loud. It's dark, gloomy & pretty fucked up at moments. If you're a fan of all three of those film directors I just mentioned, I implore you to grab a copy of that game. Pretty cheap nowadays. Ignore the weird facial expressions of the game model because I can already hear people criticizing the game just by the funky look of Max's face.
The last Pokemon game to be released for the GameBoy Color, 'Pokemon Crystal'. I only knew one person who owned this game & nowadays that copy commands so much money on Ebay. What's notable about this version is the early versions of the pokemon games came in cartridges that were traditional Game Boy carts, Crystal came in that more smooth, streamlined GameBoy Color cartridge that sadly cannot be played in older game boy consoles, nor on the GameBoy Pocket. It's very similar to 'Silver' or 'Gold' with only a few new Pokemon to catch/trade. I don't know if you can upload the Kanto pokemon into the Jhoto games though.
Again, all of you who don't know pokemon. Did you understand what I just said in that sentence?
Mentioned this game earlier, 'Mario Kart: Super Circuit' was released for the GBA. It is what you'd expect, Mario Kart but on the smaller screen. Surprising to say this game utilized an interesting Multiplayer feature where your friends can play with only one game pak. Sadly it comes with the deficit of those without the game can only play as one car & race in one stage.
Also check out this commercial. If Hollywood were to make a Mario Kart movie, it wouldn't be as accurate as this commercial.
Silent Hill 2, continuing the tradition of creeping people out on to the next generation. That's a series of games I do want to check out. I'm assuming its more story based than just running away from monsters like Resident Evil without any weaponry. Am I accurate in that description?
So all throughout this time I mentioned the GBA being on par with an SNES, but at this point in time it was also the closest we had to a portable arcade machine in our pockets. 'Final Fight One' was a taste of that possibility of full arcade games on the go. Despite several compromises to sound & at times graphics, for all of us it was either this or nothing. Later on in the GBA's lifespan we had several arcade ports. You may not have known this but there was a port for 'King of Fighters' & while it was not on-par with its arcade counterpart, it did the job as best it could. Not only that but there was also the port of 'Street Fighter: Alpha 3' & a Metal Slug port. Ever since the PSP, handheld game systems were capable of emulating the exact arcade game. With more advanced tech there's exact ports of the arcade game. I never would have envisioned the day when I could play 'Puzzle Bobble' and 'Metal Slug 2' on the go without constantly adding quarters & it all began with the GBA. There were arcade ports released to GameBoy before, but those had major compromises to graphics & sound that were of course inferior to their source ports. Then there's some that were straight up trash ports like the Game Boy port of Mortal Kombat.
Oh shit, I totally forgot we were talking about 'Final Fight' on the GBA. It's exactly like the arcade game but the music is completely different, more like a 16-bit remix of the arcade version, but the graphics are very much the same in style. I'll admit I bought this game expecting something like 'King of Fighters' or a 1 on 1 fighting game. I confused this game with 'Art of Fighting' but was astounded when I put this game on my GBA.
Devil May Cry debuted this year for the PS2 & mind you, this is before games like 'God of War' and 'Bayonetta' which can be described as a gender swapped DMC. This was a unique style of gameplay nobody had seen before. Movies like 'Blade' were still big at this time so of course all of us were open to this. I might be wrong but I think I did play this one at a friend's house, or it may have been the sequel. Either way, DMC was a fresh game at the time, copied countless times & it doesn't help that those Resident Evil/Underworld movies made dual wielding guns lame. What was once the cutting edge becomes the standard, that's going to be a Blogbabble topic one of these days.
Now we get to the reason for writing this topic, 'Grand Theft Auto III'.
Now this wasn't the first time we got a video game that utilized an sandbox open world engine because Rockstar Games tested that engine in an N64 game called 'Body Harvest'. This marks the first game where the GTA franchise softly made its transition to 3D. Released in 1997, the first game in the series was a top down, sorta 2.5D game & the cars looked like they were made out of crusty hot wheels JPEGS. I'll admit the first one was significant, but damn that PS1 version is just too frustrating & difficult. I'm unsure if the original PC version is a much better with the controls & gameplay. I've never played GTAII from 1999, but that's one I'm on the lookout for. Two years later we get to GTA III which would be the first GTA game I played. Of course this was at a friend's house, a day after me & my family came home from our trip to Mexico. One of my buddies came to visit after arriving & the morning after I came over to his house to play his PS2. Rather than do any missions we just spent hours running around the city, stealing cars, murdering people & just trying to find weird shit. I was running over old women & feeling guilty about it. This was the moment I distinguished reality over fantasy & didn't get screwed up like you fucking columbine motherfuckers out there! Remember when GTA was the subject of headline news? From GTA 1 all the way till 'San Andreas' these games were always viewed as brainwashing tools that help people turn into psychopathic killers & mass murderers. The last GTA game didn't bring up as much controversy as I wished. The only news story I recall was dumbass Linsay Lohan was sued Rockstar because the chick on the promo art had her likeness. The time GTA III came out was the same time we were getting these pro-military, America's Finest video games that were basically recruitment tools. Irony? When I first played this it was in 2004, so I wasn't aware of the censorship or edits they made in the game. This is one of those games that had to be pushed to remove some content that the developers felt was too close for comfort. Some of them were kinda dumb, I'll admit. They changed the cop cars from baby blue cars the NYPD drove at the time to these black & white LAPD looking 90's cars. Then there was the wing clipping of the Dodo airplane. Unless there was a mission where you had to fly a plane into two skyscrapers, then there was no reason as to why we could not fly the plane for long. Then there was a mission with suicide bombers that was deleted out of the game & sadly it's not added back into the Steam version. Airline jets were meant to be destructible but that was scrapped along with the flight path where the planes. Planes were originally meant to fly in between buildings in a stylistic way. Think of that scene in 'Bad Boys' where you got the plane flying closely over a Miami sign that doesn't really exist.
I should also acknowledge that 'SSX Tricky' came out this year because if I ignore it then all of you would hound me. I played it at a cousin's place? Mom's friend's place I think? I swear I never got confirmation as to who those pale ass people were. They were white folks but for some reason they knew my mom & her family all too well. Think about it, brown boy at a white folk's place. Too many dark thoughts are making me sad, moving on. Well this kid owned a PS2 & a bunch of games he couldn't play except for SSX Tricky & one of those 3D Pac Man games. He played it & never let me play it, that fucking Johnathan Lipnicki lookin....Oh my god, what if my cousin is Johnathan Lipniki? Hey y'all, my cousin Johnathan Lipniki needs a date. He'll show you the dough. Show me the dough. Show me the dough! I'm assuming that's how the line in that movie 'Jerry Bruckheimer' went. I'm also sure that's the exact title of that 90's movie.
What can I say other than it's a snowboarding game with that Y2K aesthetic. It's funny that now everything from the early 2000's is seen through that kitchy view of the 90's, 80's & 70's and any decade before. It's that 30 year cycle again. All I can say about SSX Tricky is it's a snowboarding game that I thought was called 'Sex Tricky'. Yeah, people having sex while snowboarding. I've seen people have sex while skydiving, doesn't seem as a shock to me.
I was about to say '007 Agent Under Fire' was the first James Bond game developed by EA Games, but I'm wrong. It is in fact the first Bond game for the new generation though. The first game EA made was a sorta tie-in to 'Tommorow Never Dies' released in 1999, two years after the film thinking they would create the same success as 'Goldeneye' due to the time gap. Gamers still talk about Goldeneye, you hear any of them talk about 'Agent Under Fire'? I think I played it at a neighbor's house & remember nothing about it other than it felt like a generic FPS shooter. The only charm came from the fact that this was a new Bond game that wasn't adapted off any movie or book. The only thing that sticks to my mind is that commercial with John Cleese as the new Q. Desmond Llewelyn passed away after the filming of 'The World is Not Enough' in 1999, so in a way the commercial was a debut for Cleese. Kinda smart if you ask me, but sadly I cannot see Cleese as Q. The reason Desmond worked is he sold the character well. When you see him talk with Bond you can tell both Q & Bond had a history together & constantly joke while learning about these new gadgets he's concocted. He was like the hip cool grandpa who made dirty jokes & taught you knife tricks while mom or Grandma watched disaprovingly. I don't hate the guy but John Cleese as Q was just John Cleese parodying Q. I feel it's the fact that everyone saw him in Monty Python & Faulty Towers so much that not only could we not seperate those roles from his role as Q, but also he could not seperate those roles when he was Q. Cleese is well known as playing the atypical sophisticated Brit trying to avert goofy & silly situations but ends up in said goofy & silly situations. His Q felt like he was the same guy trying to take his job seriously, but ends up doing something silly. So 'Agent Under Fire' was EA trying to win over Goldeneye fans & they had countless attempts than never really made the cut until 'Goldeneye: Rogue Agent' which was a weird spinoff/remake kinda game. It tried create this side story featuring an actual GoldenEye ball that this new Double-00 agent wears. It weaves in characters from Goldfinger & GoldenEye into this weird ass game. I digress, AUF was not great, but it wasn't bad either. The only thing that I kinda hate is by this point 'The World is Not Enough' and another movie 'Die Another Day' were almost satires of the James Bond movies. It wouldn't be until 2005 when the franchise would reinvent itself into making spies cool again.
Metal Gear Solid on the PSone was a classic Hideo did while taking advantage of what disc based technology could offer. Then came the PS2 with much more advanced graphics, more storage & more options. Hideo took advantage of this nex getech to create a more layered, more graphically impressive espionage stealth game. I might be wrong but I think it was this game or the third game (Snake Eater) that had theee longest ladder in video game history. Correct me if you will. At this point we were still getting the debate of “Are video games art?” while at the same time games like MGS2 were out there showing gamers that a mix of gameplay, storytelling & art have crafted something on par, if not far surpassing film. By this point Hideo hired Harry Gregson Williams to do the soundtrack to the game, a man known for doing soundtracks to big budget movies like 'Saving Private Ryan'.
Funny story here, when Japan released 'Saving Private Ryan' theatrically, Hideo & the Konami staff went out to the theaters to see the film so they could listen to Harry's soundtrack, but found that screening was sold out. So their next option was to watch 'The Replacement Killers' which recieved little to no fanfare. To their surprise they found that Harry did the soundtrack to that film, which was a selling point for Hideo & Konami staff. There's composers out there that have done film their whole careers that should have at least done a video game. Could you imagine how awesome a Jerry Goldsmith soundtrack would be in something like an FPS shooter or a platforming adventure? The possibilities. I already said the soundtrack to 'LA Noir' sounds like the track to both movies 'LA Confidential' and 'Chinatown'. Imagine someone like James Horner doing a Nintendo game?
'Halo: Combat Evolved' set records for Microsoft & after playing the game I can see why. I put it into a 2001 context, this game perfectly resembled a PC FPS but for the console. The whole game was one huge epic in which you felt like you were exploring a new alien planet without it feeling like what I call a shooting range on a roller coaster. Then there's the online feature, the day when college students started eating gummy worms for breakfast, peeing in bottles & pooping on socks was when they got their hands on Halo. Without Master Chief you wouldn't have these modern FPS games that we have now.
Halo was great back in 01, it's still great now. It also helps that the game was remastered recently with the 'Master Chief Collection' on Steam. Because this game was such a huge hit it was inevitable that that's all Microsoft would be known for from there on. Microsoft tried countless times to create new games that were kinda edgy but they weren't FPS sci fi shooters but never made the cut.
Y'all joke like that to kids, then have the nerve to get angry when they come out as gay or asexual when they're older. Not saying that's the impetous for homosexuality or anything, but I'm saying sometimes parents can make kids think a certain way in any aspect of life when they think they're joking.
I also hate what McDonalds corporate has done with all their McDonalds buildings. 'Sigh', I hate that corporate view of millenial redesign. Everything has gotta look like an upscale nightclub with some boncer standing up front claiming I'm not on a list despite him not holding a list of any kind. WHERE'S THE LIST YOU FUCKING MORON! That's what McDonalds looks like now. I miss those orange tiles above, the hot wheels happy meal, the ambiguous purple blob known as Grimace. Cocaine was a hell of a drug.
What we got here is an interesting & weird case of a tie-in video game before the movie was even in production. Does that make sense? In 2001 we got the game we're discussing here called 'Ecks VS Sever' for the GBA. The GBA community saw it as a neat original game & that was it. Kinda like Novelizations, this game's story was working off an earlier script of the film. A year later that script gets picked up, several changes were made & the script was now retitled 'Ballistic: Ecks VS Sever' starring Antonio Banderas & Lucy Liu. Since the game company 'BAM! Entertainment' still had the source code for the game & was still getting money from WB. Warner Bros & Franchise Pictures wanted another video game thinking that too will make sales so Bam Entertainment made another game using the same engine & working off the final draft of the screenplay. I don't even recall the story to that game, but if it's faithful to the movie then chances are that the game also suffered the same fate as the film. The film is infamous for being heavily cut & unnecessarily complex for something that was sold as a popcorn action film. All I can remember from both games is they had that chunky 3D look that the GBA had & it's not as fast paced as something like 'Doom' or 'Duke Nukem 3D'. Either you can spend hours looking at chunky 3D or not. I remember not being able to get through the game without cheat codes so that explains a lot. In the early 2000's it was something new to get 3D games on the GBA, but nowadays it's pretty primitive. Old school is something that may have aged, but it's still easy to get back to & holds up. Outdated is something you never want to go back to & It's fair to say that unless there's a game that managed to have smooth & detailed 3D on the GBA, I have no desire to go back to those kinds of games.
Let's admit it, the PS2 had one launch title people were hyped about in 2000 & that would be 'Tekken Tag Team'. Does anyone really remember the other launch titles without googling a list? The Xbox had 'Halo' and for a while they Microsoft tried to get more mascots off the ground. Then comes Nintendo, the king of video gaming mascots laying back saying “Oh, you're trying to get a mascot off the ground?How cute. We got like 20.” and as a dick waving flex Nintendo released Super Smash Bros Melee. This game is still being played today, specifically in EVO championships along with Street Fighter games & King of Fighters games. (An update here: Evo ditched Melee from their tournament roster in 2019) To think this game with Mario & Pikachu beating the fuck out of each other would still be enjoyed by people today is amazing to me. Why not? If you think a game where Pikachu beats up Mario isn't fun, then you're no fun!
This was a major improvement from the already amazing N64 game & sadly the only time I played the game was at school. Believe it or not me & a couple of friends freshman year of high school signed up for a tournament that never happened. The tourney was supposed to happen the last day of school, a day where nobody showed up. High School can choke on a weenus. A brief aside here, if this was meant to be a Senior Ditch Day sort of thing, why set it up on the last day of school instead of on a day during school as kind of a middle finger to teachers & staff?
Also check this advert out.
The GBA just could not get away from chunky 3D. Just because it could doesn't mean it should. For some weird ass reason Midway decided to make a 'Cruis'n' game for the GBA. The last Cruis'n game we got at that point was in 1999 with 'Cruis'n Exotica'. According to all the reviews this game was crap. Now the franchise is great. I have played (almost) every single Cruis'n game on the N64 & their arcade machine sources. 'Cruis'n Velocity' sounds like a good idea on paper, a sequel on the GBA? Why not? Well 'why not' should have been changed to 'Should not'. Again the game sports slow chunky 3D like Doom, but unlike Doom the chunky 3D sprites weren't smooth so you're left with a jittery racing game without the charm or personality of the Cruis'n games. The game has no rockin' tunes so all you're left with is the 16 bit buzz of the engine & a compressed soundbite shouting “Get Read, Get Set! Go!!” sounding like :Grrrt rrrdy! Grrrt srrrrr! GRRRRR!!!!” “Also the cars look like they were made out of clay. Poop cars is what they look like, but for some reason we still get pixelated bikini girls. I'm sure many a teenagers bared through this game just to watch a pixelated bikini girl that looks like a turd in a bikini. I've lusted over this game back when I collected GBA games, thank goodness I never found a copy of this or else I would have weeped. This game is an insult not just to the GBA but also an insult to the Cruis'n franchise.
The big reason 'Pikmin' sticks to me is the funny rainbow pikmin. They looked like mutated M&M's to me as a kid. While the graphics have aged, in 2001 this looked almost photo-realistic in the same vain as 'Grand Turismo 3'. Again this is a game where you play an astronaut who finds these coloful pikmin & commands them to do his bidding. A new & unique game mechanic we have not seen in other games before or later. This was a new experience, to have some great AI to do your bidding whereas before all us gamers struggled to keep Natalya from 'Goldeneye 64' from walking into bullet fire. This is twice I've mentioned Goldeneye on this entry. One more time & I get a free car wash.
Sadly to end this entry we gotta talk about the worst Gamecube game ever made. Probably the first bad game for the console.
That 'Universal Theme Parks Adventure' game is a prime example of giving corporate too much control over game development. They were so scared of being portrayed in a certain way with that game it almost felt like a parody. Universal's input on this game was so ridiculous that it felt like they wanted to troll the kids who begged their parents to buy this game. So a game based on a theme park should not be high art, but it should be fun. Instead you spend the whole game picking up trash just to play A mini-game based on their theme park rides. To all the artists & developers out there, if someone says “I want to set a good example for the youth of today.” Dip.
Get the fuck out of there!
So you spend time grinding to play less than sub par mini games, like real life right? Also when you're traversing the them park it uses the same type of graphics engine that games like 'Resident Evil' used where it looks like a bunch of pixelized 3D characters in front of a JPEG instead of a fully rendered 3D environment. This is 2001, we were past these types of graphics at this point where the sequel 'Resident Evil: Code Veronica' (Released in 2000) used fully rendered 3D environments. So this Universal Theme Park game was already out of date when it was released. For shame.
Looking though the list here, it's easy to say there was a diverse set of video games back in 2001. We were getting colorful platformers with new unique game mechanics, we were getting darker, grittier or epic action video games & fresh revisions of classic games. Handheld gaming was also growing despite graphical & sound compromises. Graphics were basing themselves with a lot more realism than last gen games, which is why the ESRB had this awkward moment during this time of rating traditionaly E-Rated games to giving them a T-rating. That's why 'Super Smash Bros Melee' & the 'Shrek' tie-in game were rated T for Teen. It was dumb as hell if you ask me. Unless you had those uber strict parents that never let you play anything above an E rating, you missed out on some games that weren't as edgy. For some reason the ESRB thought this shit was too hardcore for kids. Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the last kid's property to receive a Teen rating would be 'The Incredibles' which all you kids out there will look at & say “Goddamn, your generation is full of pussies.” Yeah kids, if someone tries to get at you with “Back in my day....” respond with the fact that 'The Incredibles' was rated T cause y'all couldn't handle that shit.
According to nintendo.fandom.com the first game to receive an E+10 rating was 'Donkey Kong Jungle Beat' in 2004. I'll tell you the first time I saw that rating was on that edgy 'Shadow The Hedgehog' game, the one where black & red sonic runs around with an Uzi.
In 2001 the Playstation 2 was giving people a better taste of new photo-realistic graphics. Microsoft & its Xbox were showing players gaming with an epic scope in both its gameplay & its online feature. Then with the Gameboy Advance it was a big baby step into what we have now with handheld gaming. Remember, the Sony PSP wouldn't come out in 2005 so the GBA was the pinnacle of handheld games at that point. Then we got the Gamecube which just appeared on the scene & didn't try hard to dethrone its competition. Then again by 2001 the gaming industry was a far cry from the early 90's where you had Sega proclaiming “Genisis does what Nintendon't.” Sega stopped being a game manufacturer & became a software developer at this time, now releasing games to all consoles. On a more depressing note this year also marked the end of a console that tried hard but never could reach the fame of its competitors. The Sega Dreamcast was discontinued on March 31st 2001. It has its fans & it had a fair share of innovative games such as 'Shenmue' and though I'm not a fan those 'Sonic Adventure' games, I'll say they have their place in gaming history. We were saying goodbye to the Dreamcast, the PS1 & the Nintendo 64 & the gaming community was now embracing the dawn of a new era. It wouldn't be several years until we start to get the PS3, the Nintendo WII (Named 'Nintendo Revolution' before) and the Xbox 360. That too also brought out new graphics, new takes on classic ideas & new characters. I yearn for the days when there would be something new on the horizon. We had no idea what these characters were supposed to be & we had no idea what the story was going to be about. All we had going was the hype, the commercials, the reviews on forums & magazines. Everyone has their own opinion as to what was the golden age of video gaming & let's be honest that opinion depends on age. 80's kids would say the golden era was the NES era or they'd say it began with the Genisis & SNES. Well I'm not going to say 2001 was the golden era of video gaming, not gonna say it's the silver age or the bronze age or anything like that. It's just video games, every generation has its positives & its negatives. What I can say is we won't get another time like 2001 where we were just being bombarded with innovations & new possibilities. Now noted most of the stuff I talked on here weren't viewed as game changing at the time of their release, it wasn't upon looking back when we discovered this was a big deal.
While America was experiencing a very devastating tragedy with September 11th, this was a perfect time to escape into the world of video gaming.
Next time on 'Blogbabble', don't know but hopefully y'all will care to read.
Until next time, enjoy a game from 2001 & see what the buzz was all about, in a 2001 context.
Twitter: (It's now my own personal twitter joint) https://twitter.com/BlacktimeEPress