Saturday, August 18, 2012

VGR Rayman 1

I remember, back when I started making these reviews on deviantArt originally some people were asking me to review this one...

After the mascot-splosion of the 90s every company started making all these platformer games and proposing new mascots for every possible company.
Most being modeled after Sonic 1 both in design and form.

While there were many good (and bad) sidescrolling platformers on the 16-bit systems, it was really Rayman who brought them up to speed for the (then-)"next" generation with its higher resolution graphics, impressive animation and CD-quality soundtrack...

VGR: Rayman
From Ubisoft
Played on Saturn (and PSX)
Also available on Atari Jaguar, PSX, PC, Game Boy Color, GBAdvance, PS3 and DS

Type Sidescrolling platformer
Year 1995

Originally developed for the Atari Jaguar system, the game was then quickly ported to other systems like the Playstation, the Sega Saturn and Dos due to Atari's latest console's incoming failure at the time.

The game started in 1994, originally with the Super Nintendo in mind. (around a 2-player mode that would be dropped quickly)
It was mostly designed by Michel Ancel and Serge Hascoët with their team at Ubisoft in its early days.
Back in the days when publishers started to move onto 3D platformers (awkwardly at first). Michel Ancel and his crew were instead focused on building a beautiful modern 2D sidescroller.
The character Rayman was made limbless to facilitate the animation.
Since the SNES couldn't handle it they moved the project for a CD-rom based console, like Atari's.
Other ports were also canned for unknown reasons, such as a 32x version and a Mac release.

The "story" revolves around a strange mysterious cartoon world named the Glade of Dreams.
There the great harmony and equilibrium of the universe is maintained by the Great Protoon.

One day came to that valley the evil Mr. Dark who stole the Great Protoon and captured the various Electoon that gravitated around it.

Betilla the Fairy tried to stop it, but alas, without any luck...

She turn then to her hero Rayman, and tasked the limbless hero with the mission to find the Electoons and bring peace back to the world by freeing the Protoon.

You play as Rayman - obviously.
The goal of this classic game is to travel throughout 5 different worlds, the Dream Forest, the Band Lands, the Blue Mountains, Picture City and the Caves of Skops after that liberating all the Electoons will able you to reach the final level named Candy Chateau where resides Mr. Dark who will summon a Bad Rayman to confront you before himself.

From up close, you might say it's a fairly traditional sidescroller of that time.
There's a lot of collectibles. All the Electoons to find over the different worlds. You gain extra live sfrom collecting every 100 blue spheres around.
The levels contain several smaller parts.
There's various bosses and sub-bosses per world.

But it's also pretty interesting in its own.
The level areas are sort of opened, even though the goal still is to reach the ending goal as usual.
There's also a ton of challenges to come your way be it in the form of the various different enemies and their abilities or different situations offered to you. (like gliding a frying pan in the last stage...)

Rayman starts with fairly basic abilities, he walks, crawls, can grimace too (!) and punch his enemies.
Then you will obtain more powers, like a better golden punch, grappling, flying with his hair like an helicopter, running...

There's moments were Rayman will be shrunk, deadly music instruments and whatnot...
There's always a surprise at every corner!

You can also pay the Magician to enter a bonus level.

The optimized Saturn and PSX version added new sound effects over the Jaguar's.
The game went through several re-releases over the years, mostly on PC.
(like Rayman Gold, etc. each editing details or even adding some more levels)

Most of the in-game music was composed by french composer Rémi Gazel. Who did a fanstastic job at capturing a mood that is so peculiar to Rayman 1. Instrumental, even eerie by moments.

The game is often criticized for being way too hard, but I think that is what makes it so unique, very reminiscent of old Nes platformers in a way.
Though reaching the epic last levels is way worth it in my eyes.

Overall, a true classic!

Unique, colorful and engaging despite it's difficulty.

I actually managed to finish the game a couple of times as a kid.
I've also been trying to finish it again these past weeks. Harded than my memories, but a fun experience nonetheless!

I have played Rayman on the original PlayStation as well, I found both versions to be pretty close in terms of experience. I guess it will nail down to what's your favorite at the end of the day. Some of the later added PC levels seem to be quite forgetful. The PS1 and Saturn version are mostly the same upgrade over the original Jaguar game.
The Saturn version has some new sound effects and some more additional graphics that aren't that important but still a nice touch (the final level glasses breaking to reveal the sky comes to mind).

I'm only sad that at the time the platforming genre was a dying bred.
Then the 3D era arrived, and with it plenty of bad 3D platformers (and even if there were some good ones, too many of them) killed the genre in favor of shooters and action games.
That is... until they slowly came back to our current "HD" era. As nostalgic retro-experiences.


I give it:
 2.5 / 3 Bruces!

VGR: Rayman By His Fans 
By various/Ubisoft/Ludimedia 
Type Expansion
Year 1997

Rayman would receive its first update in September 1997, for PC, as Rayman Gold. Not only did this version add 24 new levels and some new songs, it also offered the level editor Rayman Designer which would go on to become a big feature on the PC scene for Rayman fans. They would be able to share levels via Internet.

A year later Ubisoft released Rayman Forever, another update. 40 fanmade levels were selected through a worldwide contest. Forever also contained a Making Of the upcoming Rayman 2 at the time.

Finally, pictured above, a Rayman Collector edition was released in late 1999 containing all the material from the previous bundles as well as a second expansion (reviewed below) on the same disc. There was another alternate release under the title Rayman 100 Levels, which only contains these two expansions.

"Rayman By His Fans" is the official name of this first expansion to the original Rayman from 1997.

It's a collection of the best fan-made levels designed by fans, composed of these 40 levels that made it in Rayman Forever & Collector.

People got quickly creative with Designer at the time, and Ubisoft had a great idea to organize a contest.

While the quality can be mixed at times, it's a nice new additional challenge.

The gameplay changed a bit since the main game. The goal is still to reach the exit sign, only now to make the exit sign appear you must collect every single Tings in a level first. A constraint carried over from Rayman Designer.

Making these new stages a bit more difficult generally-speaking. Cumbersome at times, compared to the pitch perfect Rayman 1 levels.

Overall: Rayman By His Fans is... okay. Not great, but still fun.

40 new stages make for a fun add-on. While some of these stages are kind of hit and miss, it's generally fun.

Adding several new stages for the fans that already went through the original Rayman game completely several times, and who are looking for new challenges.

Rayman By His Fans has been featured in the above-mentioned compilations as well as contained in most digital re-releases of the original Rayman on PC be it on Steam of GoG (it's kind of exclusive to PC, these stages never made it to console to date).

I give this one a: 2 / 3 Score! 

VGR: Rayman 60 Levels
By Ubisoft/Ludimedia 
Type Expansion
Year 1998

"Rayman 60 Levels" was the second expansion for the original Rayman. This one from 1998, released in most later updates of the game.

This time, these 60 new additional levels were rather created by Ubisoft, specially through the Rayman Designer editor.

They are much more challenging overall.

There are 60 levels, 10 for each world of the game, and each one of those assigned to one specific difficulty from very easy, easy, medium easy, medium, medium hard, hard and very hard.

Unlike the prior expansion, collecting all Tings is not required to finish a stage.

There's a lot of fun new platform elements and minor "puzzles" to progress through the stages. It's a fun platformer to just "think through".

Overall: While being developed by Ubi directly doesn't make it better by default, this expansion added this time 60 (!!) new stages! Changed the rules a bit. And is much more challenge-oriented. 

Adding some replay value for hardcore Rayman fans .

This expansion, along the previous one, was only collected in the Rayman Collector and Rayman 100 Levels edition.

I give this one a: 2.5 / 3 Score! 

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