Friday, June 5, 2015

VGR Jurassic Park (NES)

To quote some famous words, let me take you back to the past.

Back when licensed game adaptations could be fun.

To a videogame genre I used to love...

God creates dinosaur. God destroys dinosaur. God creates man. Man creates Jurassic Park!

VGR: Jurassic Park (Nes) aka Jurassic Park (1993)
From Ocean Software
Played on NES
Also available on Game Boy

Type Top-down action game/shooter 
Year 1993

Over the years there's been dozen of video games based on the Jurassic Park franchise.

Most of those released in between the release of the original Jurassic Park 1 and The Lost World.

Since the screenplay of a movie can be stretched so far, a lot of those games often used elements Steven Spielberg cut from Michael Crichton's novels. Which was always a neat plus, I always loved the presence the aviary had over all these games (long before we got to see it in Jurassic Park 3!). But since the developers rarely stuck to using dinosaurs as the main villains of these games, you always spend most of those games fighting InGen stock soldiers... Games, you know...

Anyways, there was a pretty straightforward split over the franchise depending on the game consoles you owned. Ocean Software got to develop those on Nintendo systems while Sega took care of their own games in-house and Universal Interactive/DreamWorks Interactive would take care of the rest.

Today let's begin with the beginning, which is the Jurassic Park game Ocean release for the NES and which was also ported on the Nintendo Game Boy. It's a fairly typical action game for the time. With a bunch of goals loosely following the plot or Jurassic Park.

Actually, the plot of this game sticks far closer to Michael Crichton's novels than the movie. Either due to limited information regarding Spielberg's film or by choice.

You play as Sam Neil's character Dr. Alan Grant. No Ellie Sattler, Robert Muldoon nor Ian Malcolm in this game (as would be the case in most of these games). 

The power of the park is out! The dinos are now roaming free on the island! It's up to Grant to find and protect Lex and Tim, the grandkids of  John Hammond, the owner of the park!

The game begins new the installations of the park, around the gates. From there on Alan Grant must open new areas, reach Tim and protect him from a Triceratops stampede and escape from the Tyrannosaurus Rex alive. Get Lex and do the same. And finally escape to the mainland with an helicopter!

Since it takes some direct elements from the original book, you also get to make a stop by the Velociraptor nest inside a volcano in one of the last missions and destroy the eggs with gas grenades!

The gameplay is fairly typical for the time. Like other licensed games I already review in the past such as Die Hard or New Ghostbusters II, Jurassic Park is also a top-down shooter/action game. And it works pretty well for the license if you ask me, I wouldn't really like a simple platform that much.

The game comports a fair amount of exploration that way. It revolves are a set of missions you must complete in order to open and reach new areas and the end of these fairly big levels. It gives you a sense freedom (which is only an illusion, since you must complete precise things in order to progress). 

Also, it's really important to always take note of what you need to do or you will be stuck! Before anything all you really need is notice a counter on the HUD indicating the remaining dinosaur eggs you must find or destroy (keeping those intact will give you better score). Don't miss any eggs or you will also get stuck. (I remember being complete clueless what to do as a kid, since I couldn't read English back then, thankfully the French notice really came in handy...).

Most of the game consists in clearly an area of all the eggs around, locating access cards to open the facilities, clearing the eggs there once inside, reaching computers to open the next area and then moving on to the next level.

The game is about 6-level long. You begin by just trying to survive inside the gates of Jurassic Park, reach Tim outside and then you get a special "Triceratops Stampede" level where you must keep Tim from by run over by the dinos. After that you will get to face the T. Rex in the first confrontation. After that you will move to the Raptors' area, restore the computers back up and locate Lex, do the same and move on to the Visitors Center. Once all that is done, Grant will notice the Raptors have begun to breed and slowly overrun the place, and then it's up to you to destroy their nest. After that you'll radio the mainland through the docks. Finally you will be able to escape once the helicopter arrives shortly... after one last boss fight with the T. Rex!!

The game is all about finding the various dinosaur eggs around the place and collecting these access cards. 

There's not that many dinos in the game, but they're varied enough from the usual Velociraptors to Dilophosaurus, a ton of Compy's and finally the T. Rex you will meet a couple of times. Some dinosaurs keep respawning, it's all about decide what you do in order to avoid them. Some like the T. Rex or the Triceratops can't even be killed. All in all it's always best to simply try running past them if possible and if you're not inside a closed space.

There's a few types of ammunitions you can use.

There's also these "mystery boxes" around which can't either grant you more health, invincibility or additional lives. But every 2 to 3 boxes it will be a bomb. So I'd advise simply avoiding those, it's not worth it honestly.

The "boss fights" pop up every odd level stage, those Triceratops or T. Rex segments.

It's a fun game, but it feels a bit repetitive and too simple at times. 

Something pretty useful you might notice at first is that Alan Grant can jump around pretty high and quickly. It's really useful to avoid the smaller dinosaurs and just avoid any incoming threats (but that won't help much when you have Tim and Lex following you around in the boss fights).

Due to the lack of variety it feels a bit repetitive at times. But overall it's a decent adaptation of the material, a fun decent action game.

The game can get a bit tricky and pretty challenging at some points, but nothing impossible really. And the game might not give you much lives to begin with, but you do get 4 continues.

The music composed by Jonathan Dunn is fun and catchy, and well worth mentioning here. While it sounds nothing like John Williams' theme the main theme/1st level music is just too catchy and will get stuck in your head for days (or years, in my case).

Overall, Jurassic Park on the NES is a great classic game.

It follows a pretty decent concept (compared to some later sidescroller or modern JP games). There's a few annoying tricky segments and repetitive gameplay, and those instant death mystery boxes get really annoying (you can only learn to trust those through trial and error), but otherwise it's a fairly solid experience. Highly Recommended for retro gamers and JP fans!

The game was also released on the original black & white Game Boy at the time. It's basically the exact same game. Fun, replaying and even the catchy music made it! Although this GB port seems to have a few levels noticeably absent.
I give it:
2.5 / 3 Bruces!

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