wow, not going to spoil it for you but damn, you need to watch this commercial. [YouTube]
Green ninjas help shampoo and hair dye commercial actresses do their hair swing. pic.twitter.com/A2J1soh1HM
— Behind the Scenes (@MakingOfs) May 5, 2014
Nowadays sports games are all about realism and being able to control the players you idolize and making them look and move around as life-like as possible. These ads for the EA Sports franchises published in an October 1998 issue of EGM really do an effective job of portraying what sports games were like 16 years ago. The well known athletes in the ads are depicted as low-polygon models and aren’t photorealistic or life-like at all while the environments and the athletes in the background are real. The ads don’t feature any screenshots of the games, don’t use in-game player models and they don’t boast about how real the graphics are or anything of the sort, the only text in these ads refer to the athletes statistics and a quote. This may signify the limitations of the consoles at the time and uses these limitations to create something cool-looking; I’m not a fan of American football but that ad featuring Barry Sanders looks great. The merger of low-polygon artwork and photography really work well and create an image that is memorable.
With the release of the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Nintendo created what many believed to be the perfect game. It was the first 3D Zelda game. It introduced the world to some gameplay mechanics that would become the norm in adventure games such as auto-lock and auto-jump. So how would Nintendo follow it up? By releasing the most unique Zelda game to date. To some, the most memorable Zelda game since. Majora’s Mask.
It was a pretty smart move. When developers release a game that is considered a classic, whatever sequel they release afterwards will automatically be compared to it. With Majora’s Mask that’s not the case because it was so different. How would you compare it to Ocarina of Time? It’s not the kind of game you would normally associate with Nintendo. The premise of the game is dark and depressing. The game features a three-day cycle time limit. You’re not saving the princess. You’re saving the world. If you fail, everyone dies.
Nintendo put out a series of creepy ads featuring the moon and New York City. The in-game screenshots placed on the side seem to have been strategically selected. Showing a distraught character, the creepy moon looking down at Link and the destruction of the world. I have a feeling this ad wouldn’t be accepted by todays standards just because of the imagery and the idea it conveys. The TV commercials were in tune with the print ads, dark and creepy. The message was that the weight of the world is on your shoulders, it’s your responsibility to save everyone. Majora’s Mask was a unique experience. I never owned an N64 so I had to wait until it was released on the Wii’s eShop (The only place it’s available now). The Ocarina of Time 3DS remake was great, but the game itself didn’t age that well, while on the other hand I feel that Majora’s Mask has aged better. It deserves a remake.
The Sega Dreamcast was ahead of its time when it was released on September 1999 but even with all its unique features and great games it financially bombed and forced Sega into leaving the hardware business.
Shenmue was supposed to be the next big thing back in 2000 and had a lot riding on it. This 3 page ad featured no description, no screenshots and only four words. That’s how big Sega thought Shenmue was. This was in a time before the Internet was prevalent so if you didn’t know what Shenmue was you hoped that the magazine you were reading had an article or a preview. This ad is a rarity due to its lack of information but that’s how much confidence Sega had in its game. In a way this advertisement is the opposite of the Jet Grind Radio ad which included all the information you needed to know about what sort of game it is.
So who was behind the game? The legendary Sega studio Sega AM2 with Yu Suzuki at the helm as director and producer. Yu Suzuki and Sega AM2 were known at the time for creating some of the most well known and iconic Sega games like Space Harrier, Out Run, Virtua Cop, Virtua Fighter, After Burner and Daytona USA. With a budget of $45 million Shenmue was the most expensive game at the time and Sega were hoping that it would be the Dreamcasts killer app. But by the time Shenmue was released on the 8th of November 2000 the Dreamcast was already in trouble due to Sega posting a yearly loss of $388.9 million and Sony releasing the Playstation 2 in March of that year.
The game turned out to be a hit with critics and fans alike but didn’t sell as much as Sega were hoping. It became the Dreamcasts fourth highest selling game and only one of six titles to sell a million copies. Two months after Shenmue was released Sega announced the discontinuation of the Sega Dreamcast and that production was going to be stopped by the end of March of 2001.
Sadly the original Shenmue was never ported onto any other console, never re-released on the Playstation Store or Xbox Marketplace and the only way to experience it is to own a Dreamcast. Surprisingly you can find Shenmue on eBay for as little as $10 and a Dreamcast for as little as $50. Even though the console sold poorly and was discontinued there were a bunch of great games released on the the console. So, would it be worth it? I would say so.
Back when Sony and Nintendo released the Playstation and Nintendo 64 one aspect that they pushed was 3D graphics. Established franchises like Super Mario, Zelda, and Final Fantasy were going three-dimensional. The new hits like Tomb Raider, Tekken and Resident Evil were also in 3D. Everyone was jumping on the bandwagon because gamers were pushed to view 2D games as “simple” while 3D games were complex and had depth. You had other franchises like Earthworm Jim who were attempting to make the transition and ended up with horrid games.
There were two Castlevania games in development in the mid-90′s, the 2D Symphony of the Night and the 3D Castlevania 64. One would end up a timeless hit while the other, even though met with positive reviews was gradually forgotten over time.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night went against the grain. It was a 2D side-scrolling non-linear adventure RPG. Instead of stage progression like previous Castlevania games you had one large castle to explore. The developers added role-playing elements such as leveling-up to make the game easier for average gamers. It was a deep game featuring a long main quest and extra game modes post-completion to add to its replay value. You could also unlock a new character which required you to play the game in a different manner. It was brilliant and critics loved it. The problem that it faced though was that people weren’t looking for this type of game. Who wanted to play a simple 2D side-scroller when there were more fancy 3D looking games? It didn’t help that the marketing for the game was poor and relied on word-of-mouth.
And looking at the advertisement above, do you blame people? We’re given four tiny screenshots that reveal nothing significant. There’s too much text that’s laid out in an annoying fashion. Everything is forced to the side to accommodate that photo with the cheesy tagline. With the limited funds they had to market the game, they wasted it on crappy made double page ads like the one above. Over time Symphony of the Night became a big hit and would join the Playstation 1 Greatest Hits collection. Konami would go on to make more great 2D Castlevania games for the Gameboy Advanced and Nintendo DS. They would also would go on to make more mediocre 3D Castlevania games.
Symphony of the Night has made a lasting impression on the game industry that can be felt to this day with games like Cave Story, Shadow Complex, Strider and Guacamelee! all being released in the past 5 years. So if you haven’t played Symphony of the Night it’s currently available to download in the Xbox Marketplace and Playstation Network store and holds up pretty well. I would recommend it ahead of the high budget action oriented Lords of Shadow.
I’m a big fan of Fumito Ueda’s work, both Ico and Shadow of Colossus were games that were incredibly unique and brilliant. I’ve previously written about Ico’s beautiful box art painted by Ueda. It’s no surprise that this game would also have a great ad. The entire page is covered in a massive maze that seems impossible to get out of. Screenshots of the game are tastefully placed in the maze’s layout. You’ll find a brief backstory and a tagline placed next to the logo of the game. This is an ad that’s aesthetically pleasing and designed with thought. Placing the backstory and tagline near the title of the game makes them easier to read since the readers eye will be drawn to the logo due to its contrasting colors. If the backstory and tagline were placed elsewhere it would likely have been more difficult to read.
Ico never really sold well but it was an important game for many and it influenced prominent game designers like Eiji Aonuma and Hideo Kojima. It still influences games 13 years later, for instance the 2013 release Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Ico and Shadow of the Colossus were re-released on the PS3 with improved visuals in 2011, which I definitely recommend picking up if you’ve never played either games. I’d also recommend reading about Fumito Ueda’s fascinating design philosophy, Design by Subtraction.
The other day I wrote about the sexist and offensive Fear Effect 2 ad campaign, today I’m focusing on something more fun. The print ad for Sega Dreamcast’s Jet Grind Radio (also known as Jet Set Radio). I remember playing the on my brothers Dreamcast, it was incredible. At the time it was a unique experience that hasn’t really been replicated since.
I like this ad for quite a few reasons. It captures the essence of the game. It’s fun, quirky, features that awesome Jet Grind Radio logo, and it blends 2D visuals and photography. The gameplay revolves around a gang (called the GGs) roller-skating around Tokyo fighting (not literally) off cops and rivals. All the while you try to gain control of Tokyo by tagging the city. The tagline gives you the basic gist of what to expect from the gameplay. The text box under it goes into even more detail referring to the tagging, rivals and a sprawling urban environment. The game also featured beautiful cell-shaded graphics. It also features awesome soundtrack that includes a wide array of musical genres from hip-hop to electronic and J-Pop.
If you’re interested in checking the game out it’s available in the Playstation Store and the Xbox Live Marketplace.
Update: It’s also available on Steam. (Thanks Beemo)