Tuesday, August 18, 2015

VGR Jurassic Park (Mega Drive)

Time to return to Jurassic Park for yet another JP game installment!

After the funny colorful 8-bit games and the messy SNES one, here's a much darker take that traumatized a lot of children who probably still fear dinosaurs to this day...

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

VGR: Jurassic Park (Mega Drive) aka Jurassic Park (Sega)
From BlueSky Software/Sega
Played on the Sega Mega Drive
Also available on /

Type Sidescroller
platformer/shooter action game
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 original novels. Which was always a neat plus, I always loved the presence the aviary had over several of these games despite only getting screentime in the later Jurassic Park 3! But since the developers rarely stuck to using dinosaurs as the main villains of these games, you also often spent most of those games fighting InGen stock soldiers...

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

After having a look at Nintendo, it's time to check on the Sega Jurassic Park games. And there's been a lot of those. Platformers? Rail Shooters? Adventure games? They made all sorts of games with the license...

While the Master System game was developed by Sega Japan, Sega of America had Vectorman 1 & 2 developers BlueSky Software work on the main Mega Drive/Genesis counterpart. Like the 8-bit Game Gear and Master System game, it's also a sidescroller game with an heavy emphasis on platform and a run 'n' gun type of gameplay. 

To make better use of the 16-bit system, the characters in the game were actually made from rotoscoping 3D models in stop motion. The same goes for the humans, only substituting the models for people from the crew at BlueSky. They also developed a special feature just for the game, the ADI (or "Artificial Dinosaur Intelligence"), a specific AI system dedicated for the dinos, causing them to act and behave greatly different from one another, making them stand out from the other human characters (the soldiers in the game), which made replaying a level fresh and different every time. 

This game was set on being different and unique. And it starts like this as soon as you boot the game, the T. rex is there to greet you as soon as the Sega logo hits the screen.

The game starts with a lovely intro, much closer to the film that all of the other games have been so far. The only thing really missing are all the other protagonists of Jurassic Park, but granted that's okay for a game. The story takes place right after the T. rex crashed Alan Grant's car inside the fence. 

Now trapped inside the park with all these iconic dinosaurs from the film, Dr. Alan Grant must make his way back to the Visitor Center. But the electric fences have been knocked off by the storm and all the dinos are now roaming free around the place! 

There's a lot of recognizable dinosaurs from the movie, such as the Brachiosaurs, the venom-spitting Dilophosaurus from the film, the big Triceratops who are not really foes but be careful whenever you come near them. Plus the terrifying Tyrannosaurus has also set his sights on Grant!

Meanwhile the Velociraptor's pen was also struck by lightning and it is now open.. The Raptors are the main antagonists in this game. They're much smarter and 

The game uses several elements from the original novel such as the jungle river and a pre-Lost World apparition of the Procompsognathus (the "Compys").

Where the game is really unique compared to past Jurassic Park games is that it allows you to play as either Dr. Alan Grant (by default) or as this big mean (clever girl) main Raptor from the film.

The story and the level design changes depending on which character you choose to play as. 

With Alan, the main objective of the game is to reach the helicopter pad like in the movie and face the Tyrannosaurus rex and the Raptors at the end.

As Alan the game plays like your fairly typical sidescroller action game. There's a few platform segments here and there, and the game throws a few variations your way to keep things interesting.

There's a few weapons you can grab around. You start with tranquilizers and a few grenades. You can get your hands on a taser - but unlike all the other JP games it doesn't come with unlimited ammo. There's also a rocket launcher. You need to be careful, ammo is scarce but there's a lot of it hidden through the stages if you stray out of the main path.

The game gets kind of tricky pretty quick. There's an awfully punishing river stage from a scene taken straight from the book. Thankfully the game has a password system.

As the Raptor, the stages feature a completely different level design.

The game is much shorter, it's only about 5 stages-long. The gameplay is much more fast paced. The Raptor runs really fast and jumps really high. You can only use close range attacks such as your claws and teeth.

The Raptor also faces something unique to its campaign - as the Raptor you also face all kinds of InGen guards. Dinosaurs are not much threat to the Raptor since you can claw your way clean through them, but the humans are trickier since they use weapons and projectiles. To regain your health you must eat stuff, you can even eat Compys to get your health back.

The main objective here is to go after Alan Grant. 

Once you reach the Visitor Center, the Raptors must make the T. rex skeleton collapse to make Alan Grant flee the island.

Jurassic Park had some great people working on it. This Mega Drive game had the great artist Douglas TenNapel (!!) on board, Earthworm Jim creator, working as lead artist along Dana Christianson as art director. The team worked with the crew at ILM to help make the dinosaurs match the visuals from the movie. To get the look and their color palette just right out of the movie picture. In fact the team was so focused on making this game a great standalone game, not just a decent game adaptation, they even made a few trips to museums and worked with JP consultant paleontologist Robert Bakker who showed them how similar to birds dinosaurs were, which they used as an inspiration to get the anatomy and movements right.

It's a really fun game with a unique dark atmosphere. 

With Grant it has a very punishing final stage and can get kind of messy. But with the Raptor it is pretty easy and really fast paced. 

The graphics can be a bit muddy here and there, I found there's some confusion between the detailed sprites and the detailed backgrounds. The game also has a few slowdowns here and there.
The music was composed by the brilliant Sam Powell. While it doesn't sound anything like the movies, it really fits the savage and wild tone of this game. (I would say it's closer to Alan Silvestri's Predator score!)

Overall, Jurassic Park is a great game on the Sega Mega Drive. With great graphics and sound effects. The gameplay is really fun and fast-paced. The dinosaur foes are smart and can even get tricky at times. The humans in the Raptor's campaign are kinda annoying a times though:

It's a pretty decent action game, much better than a lot of video game adaptations out there. If somewhat generic with Grant, dinosaurs aside.

As such, it's a Recommended game for any JP fans out there or people looking for a pretty good memorable Mega Drive title!

Unlike most of the other JP games produced, this Mega Drive title would be followed by a direct sequel. Jurassic Park: Rampage Edition, the following year. The title might make you think it's just a re-release of the same game, but it's actually the second half of this game, think of it like the Sonic & Knuckles to this Sonic 3. It uses the same game engine but with revamped graphics now slightly more cartoony with big black outlines (an early form of cell shading). The level design is also much better thought of and more original. It takes place immediately after the ending which saw Grant getting out of the island.. only for his helicopter to crash right back in Jurassic Park. The sequel is a lot more focused on action and InGen soldiers are now also after Alan Grant. All in all, the sequel addresses much of my issues with this first game.
I give it:
2 / 3 Bruces!

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