In the period of time before widespread broadband, the reason to buy a video game magazine was for the free game samples that came with every issue. It wasn't that long ago, and X-Box Magazine still does it, but it's an obsolete practice that's falling out of favor. Official U.S. Playstation Magazine was basically 200 sheets of toilet paper that came attached to a demo CD, and I wished I could just subscribe to the disc, but they didn't make it that way. I rarely if ever spent money on an OPM issue.
I've been scouring eBay for more of these magazine demos -- as little time capsules of game history, they interest me now. If you're going to go collecting OPM demo discs, there's only one truly worth owning, and that's Issue 75 because it contains the only translated US release of a bridging cinema connecting Final Fantasy X to Final Fantasy X-2. We'll be getting to that one later. First I want to go back even further, to Issue 62 -- the first demo disc (of two) I ever legitimately bought.
The main attraction to Issue 62 was the Sly Cooper demo. But there were eight others, as well as developer interviews, videos of game secrets and more. It was more than enough to keep me occupied -- I didn't need the dead-weight magazine inflating the price to $10.
In the Behind the Scenes section: an interview relating to Eidos's looming disaster Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness, the game that resulted in their losing the right to make any future titles in the series. Who did Eidos drag out to assure the buying public that nothing was going wrong behind the scenes? The producer? The director? The main programmer? Head of PR? Nope.....they were all drinking.
They sent out Lara.
You can get a hint here as to the game's quality. This is the in-game model you're looking at, and in the custom animation made for the video, poor Croft can barely move. She does her best bragging about how many polygons her chest contains, but you can see her wince in pain as she tries to turn around using the shoddy programming she was built with.
She also promises the game would come out that November, but it did not. The publisher kept kicking it back to the developers and getting the same results months later. Finally, they just threw up their hands and released the game alongside the DVD release of the second movie, the latest they could afford to time it as far as corporate synergy was concerned.
Next up: "Tommy's GAME PAD!" Tommy Tallarico is a video game music composer, perhaps most famous for creating the soundtrack to Earthworm Jim and hosting a terrible G4 program. I showed my cousin this segment back when the disc was new, and we both agreed that based on the information gleaned from this video, Tallarico was a complete economy-sized tool.
There's a story about Tallarico he doesn't tell here: when he first moved to LA, he got a job at Guitar Center trying to make ends meet. A producer from Interplay walked into the Guitar Center one morning and noticed Tommy was wearing a T-shirt with a game character printed on it. He said to Tommy, "Do you like games? Do you like music?" "Yeah!" Tommy replied. "Would you like to compose music for US?" the man offered. "You bet, mister!" Tommy said excitedly.
So basically, if Guitar Center had a better dress code, Tommy would not today own several exotic cars and every issue of Spider-Man and an in-home arcade with Baby Pac-Man. His entire fate hinged on what kind of shirt he wore that morning. Life's not fair.
You know what I didn't see in that video, though? A girlfriend.
There are also behind-the-scenes videos for the first Ratchet and Clank and the Japanese RPG series dot Hack, but I've used all the video space I want to spend on this article. If I could still get into my YouTube account, maybe there would be more. Unfortunately, since YouTube and Google are now one and the same, the former sensed I had an account with the latter and demanded I merge the accounts before I went any further. I did, and afterward, my password no longer worked. After I got that resolved, the new YouGoogle account insisted I pick a name for my YouTube channel -- didn't I already have one? I put in "platypuscomix" and it told me that was taken. OF COURSE IT'S TAKEN -- IT WAS TAKEN BY ME! NOW LET ME IN! I can't access any of my old videos or add new ones. They're still there. But the account no longer knows they're there. I don't wish to spend nine hours on a telephone to resolve this, so.....if you wanted to see the Ratchet video, complain to Google.
"The Vault" contained what everyone came for -- the demos. Some of them have exit options to return to the disc menu and some don't. This is a bit of a problem because if you must reset, an inescapable ad plays every time you go back to that menu from the main one. It's simultaneously promoting a space shooter called "Run Like Hell" and an energy drink called "BAWLS" (really in caps). And this is how they advertised them at once: "Grab your BAWLS and RUN LIKE HELL!!"
Obviously, they named the drink "BAWLS" on purpose so they could make puns like this. But if that's an expression, I've never heard it. I really haven't heard of anybody who, when confronted with a dangerous situation that required running, instinctively grabbed their own crotch first. But I guess somebody's marketing research showed all the cool kids do that.
When I first put the DVD in, my attention first went to the demo for the ultra-obscure Japanese title Dual Hearts, published by Sony in its home country and by Atlus here. It was ignored at its release and is lost to time now. From what the demo lets me gather, you played as a boy with a Shmoo sidekick who went inside people's brains to collect lots of shiny things. No, it's nothing like Psychonauts -- the controls are much worse, for one thing. So's the camera.
This is a problem for the level of platforming the game expects of you. Atlus gave people a lot for free -- only two areas, but they took me hours to complete. It didn't sell me on the game, though.
A recent issue of EGM pointed out that on the PS1 there were two Wild Arms games, on the PS2 there were three, and on the PS3 there are none. They used this to illustrate how much in trouble the Japanese game industry is. I think the bigger problem is that current-gen games cost so much and involve so many dinky little visual details that no one can make as many as they used to per year. I'd like a Dark Cloud 3, but if Sony has to choose between funding that and the next Ratchet and Clank, they'll take the louder route every time.
What I'm saying is, if I had to give up the latest graphics in exchange for it NOT taking four years from the time a modern game is announced to the time I can buy it, or ten years for Elder Scrolls to get from Morrowind to Skyrim, I'd give 'em up in a second. It would mean more to choose from and more lesser series getting new sequels. No one would miss being able to count the hairs on Lara's head.
Oh, and Wild Arms 3 is a decent thing for what it is, but except for the Western theme, it doesn't have anything to set it apart from the 5,000 turn-based JRPGs just like it.
You're gonna give me a DDR demo? What for? If you have a floor pad, you probably already have a DDR game. And if you don't....well, you can play the game with the controller but it's not nearly as fun.
Similar to the DDR demo, this Silent Scope demo assumes I have a peripheral, in this case a light gun. It's more playable with a regular controller than the DDR game, but much harder. Slowly dragging the target reticule across the screen usually results in taking three bullets to every one you shoot yourself. The terrorists won in the end.
MX Superfly: you might think this looks like some generic bike-racing game, but you know what makes THIS one special?
It comes with a coupon!
That's a screen that appears amidst the logos before the game starts.
On the left you see the other racers blazing off on the trail, and me left in the dust trying to figure out which button is "accelerate." Though I eventually got moving, it wasn't for long. I skidded around a turn, headed the wrong direction and crashed into a pylon, making my bike jolt slightly and an onscreen indicator to flash "RECORD LONG JUMP -- SIX FEET!!" Is the game being sarcastic? I was even worse at MX Superfly than I was at Silent Scope. Maybe there's some giant real-sized motorbike peripheral I'm missing? Yeah, that's it....I hope. The free Tang is of little consolation.
The actual coolness factor of the proported "Cool Moves" varied. The most time was spent showing me how to reach a secret area in a Pac-Man game, knowledge I could have lived my life without. They also showed me how to collect dog tags in MGS2, but isn't that in the manual? What WAS cool, though, was a glitch in an obscure low-budget title that, if I had it, would let me repeatedly jump in midair and climb up endlessly over any area. There are so many bigger games this glitch needs to happen in.
What's the Download Station? An area containing completed game saves that you can transfer to a memory card. This would be very cool if they weren't for games like Scooby Doo.
|Official Playstation Magazine ran for 113 issues and produced just as many demo discs. Half of them are easy to get and dirt cheap (the later half), but the discs from issues 1-60 have been harder to obtain. As you may have guessed, there will be more demo disc overviews in the future as I build my collection. (Seven bucks for one magazine disc is not reasonable. Come on, people.)|
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