It might be hard to remember after the games have been beaten and the dust has settled, but what draws many of us to the epic adventures offered by some of the best games, is an amazing trailer. Whether it’s the story, music, or just getting caught on the tracks of an oncoming hype train, gamers tend to shout “take my money” when something special splashes across the screen. With these things in mind, the rebels are here to tell everyone about a few of their favorite game trailers, and whether or not they lived up to the sheer awesomeness of their sizzle reels.
Many games these days feel like they are trying to be movies while sacrificing mechanics and action. It irks me, but that aspect attracted my eighteen year old self when I saw the trailer advertising Grand Theft Auto III for the first time during an episode of Monday Night Raw. It was a game that seemed like something more than what I had been playing at the time. A story in the vein of The Godfather and Goodfellas, with a touch of revenge and wanton violence, wrapped up in a pretty package. The trailer was short, but seemingly offered up something that felt like a lengthy narrative of a simple car thief’s rise to power, and his eventual fall if fans were lucky. A plain looking man seemed to be the protagonist, although his silly name, “Claude Speed” was anything but plain. However, the real kicker came when his ex-girlfriend decided to shoot him in the face, from that point on I wanted to see this criminal succeed at everything.
The graphics look pretty bad now, but at the time they seemed great, not just for the action, but the mood of the scenes. Everything is gray and bleak, only interrupted by bright lights, fire, and muzzle flashes. It is the music that helps to sell it though; a 1918 song from the opera Gianni Schicchi titled “O Mio Babbino Caro,” or “My Beloved Father.” The song sounds like it would fit in the previously mentioned films and since Gianni Schicchi was an opera based on hypocrisy, jealousy, double-dealing and feuding, it is also a perfect fit for a GTA game. I love the accent the song provides when the Don says that he can make the player “a made man,” or that crescendo as the car jumps near the end. It all works so well together. I had played GTA2 before, but this looked nothing like that; this was totally different. So when the title came into view on that black screen I was surprised and very pleased.
The trailer spoke to me. It boasted confidence and carnage with a ton of action. I was completely sold when I learned that the game was open world. I wanted nothing more than to enter the giant sandbox of Liberty City and see what it had to offer. Obviously, there have been better versions of the game made since GTA3, and a lot of improvements in all areas. I cringe just a little bit when I hear some of the voice acting or think too long on certain story points, but none of that takes away from the game as much as most would think. I booted one of my many copies of the title up the other night just to make sure; but as I suspected I still spent a few hours just driving around, doing a few of the really fun missions, and taking some pop shots at unlucky pedestrians. I remember this game quite fondly, and owe the trailer for the desire I had to delve into the game; but my best memories were from things I did in the world that were not scripted. Rockstar still makes some of the best trailers, but the one for Grand Theft Auto III will always be the first I saw of one of my favorite series.
After Final Fantasy X, I wasn’t too excited about Final Fantasy XII. Yes, I enjoyed Final Fantasy X, but it just didn’t grab me like previous games had. This was the first traditional Final Fantasy after XI had been an online only experience. I knew that this game would be fully voiced and after the spotty voice acting from X, I just couldn’t get excited about this game… until I saw the trailer.
I was in Iraq when one of my buddies showed me the trailer for the new game. The voice over was still in Japanese at this point, but man it looked AWESOME! This game looked way more cinematic than any Final Fantasy game before it. The setting was fresh and new. Instead of a futuristic or high fantasy setting, this was set in a very Middle Eastern inspired world. This was a bit coincidental – having spent the last year in the desert myself – it may have hit home a bit more than it would have for others.
Final Fantasy XII released in March of 2006. I honestly don’t remember when I finally picked the game up, but I do remember it being fairly close to the release date. I purchased the game at a GameStop in Savannah, Georgia. When I finally popped the game in and played it, I was not disappointed. The gameplay was inspired by Final Fantasy XI, which I had already spent a ton of time with, so it felt familiar, yet new, all at once. This was a Final Fantasy game that didn’t use a separate battle screen for battles. Battles took place in the same world you traveled through. The story was just as much a breath of fresh air as I had hoped, with cues from Star Wars, surprisingly enough. Your companions were all interesting and voiced VERY well, not at all like the travesties that took place in Final Fantasy X. The plot was action packed and kept moving throughout the game, without many dull points. This quickly became one of my favorite Final Fantasy titles.
The graphics and sound were some of the best I’d seen on a console up until that point. The picture was a bit grainier than Final Fantasy X, but it seemed to be done to incorporate a lot more detail and an incredibly inspired art style the likes of which we hadn’t really seen since Final Fantasy VI. The world was beautiful and deep, fleshed out and interesting. I particularly love how the Ogir-Yensa Sandsea was portrayed as a desert that was almost some sort of body of water rather than a sand filled wasteland. The music, while not as catchy as previous titles, was still very good, and enhanced the mood of the game. The score was upbeat, but still haunting in a way, and dare I ask that if the story didn’t remind you of Star Wars, the music might? Did the trailer for Final Fantasy XII live up to my expectations of the actual game? I answer that with a resounding YES. While it’s not the most popular game in the series for a lot of players out there, I absolutely adore this game. It’s one of my favorite games of all time and I highly encourage anyone who didn’t like it to give it a second chance.
Shovel Knight is the perfect example of an indie game that lives up to the hype. When I first saw the trailer two years ago, I was immediately hooked. It had everything I wanted in a video game, and I am a very picky bastard when it comes to video games. The music had a very Mega Man-esque feel to it, which immediately earns points from me, because I grew up playing the original Mega Man games. The graphics, while having that retro feel, still looked beautiful and well polished. I think this was the first time I actually cared about parallax scrolling in an 8-bit style game, or at least, what the term “parallax scrolling” meant. The pacing and action also looked very promising. The concept of using a shovel not just for attacking, but for platforming purposes (such as bouncing off enemies in order to reach higher places) and finding secrets, was what piqued my interest in this game so much. Well, also that boss fight with that mechanized monstrosity (created by the later named Tinker Knight).
Needless to say, my expectations were pretty high for this game. However, I also had to consider the possibility that it may disappoint me when released, but it was a risk I was willing to take. At the time, this was the most I’d been excited for a game’s release in a long ass time. Then, when the game was released and I finally got to play it, I was elated. It lived up to the trailer and was everything I expected it to be. The music is absolutely fantastic. Each track fits the accompanying stage perfectly, especially the track for Propeller Knight’s stage, High Above The Land. The gameplay is also well done and it controls very well. When you screw up, it’s your own fault that you missed a jump, or took too much damage without using an ichor in time, or misjudged a boss’ attack pattern. Which brings me to…
The boss fights are spectacular! Each has their own unique music, and each boss can also adapt their attack patterns based on your reactions. (SPOILER: Near the end, you face each of them again in a “boss rush,” which is a pain in the ass, but it’s fun and rewarding to beat them all again.) The graphics are also just as beautiful as was promised in the trailer. No shortcuts, no ugly transitional segments, just pixelated perfection.
So, yes, Shovel Knight has indeed lived up to my expectations. In fact, it has earned a place on my Top Ten games of all time (coming out never, because there are enough Top Ten lists out there). It is definitely something I think everyone should play. Yacht Club Games did excellent work on this one, especially Jake Kaufman, who composed most of the tracks.
Download this game today, and dispense some justice. Shovel justice!
I was a “Nintendo Kid” growing up, so the first system I wanted during the 5th generation of consoles was the N64, which I got in the summer of 1997. While I enjoyed many of the system’s offerings like Star Fox 64 and GoldenEye, the groundbreaking exclusives on the PS1 would soon make me question my choice. All my friends opted to play for team Sony from the start, and would often tease me about my “baby system” with talk of mature and cinematic games like Resident Evil, Twisted Metal, and Final Fantasy VII. It seems so silly and trivial in retrospect, but it did have an effect on me at the time. That fall I borrowed a friend’s copy of Final Fantasy III for the Super Nintendo, and playing that for the first time in addition to all the word of mouth and advertising buzz surrounding Final Fantasy VII, led me to ask for the PS1 for Christmas. I ended up getting the system along with two games I requested—Final Fantasy VII, for reasons made obvious in my previous statements, and Tomb Raider II because of… well, changes in my teenage biology. Ahem.
Final Fantasy VII and the PS1 are a huge part of why I’m still playing games today, as I was sort of “growing out” of gaming until acquainting myself with Mako, Midgar, and a mini-skirt wearing gal named Tifa Lockheart. I never had a 10+ hour gaming session in my life before I booted up FFVII Disc 1, and from that point on, I became what some might call a hardcore gamer, particularly when it came to role-playing games. I started buying up any 32-bit RPG I could get my hands on: Suikoden, Wild ARMs, Alundra, name a great RPG in the 32-bit era and chances are I played it. So with my rekindled passion for gaming and new found love of RPGs, imagine how excited I was when I found out about The Granstream Saga, a colorful, 3D action RPG that “debuted at #1 in Japan,” as the North American advertising campaign proudly proclaimed.
I was introduced to the game with my very first purchase of the Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine, which came with a demo disc containing a trailer for The Granstream Saga. Right from the start, the video drew me in with its blood-pumping soundtrack. All the things my 13 year-old self wanted in an RPG were present in the trailer. OK, so there were no Tifa Lockhearts, but there WAS fast-paced action, gorgeous three-dimensional graphics, full motion anime video, and what looked like a nearly limitless game world to explore. In addition to gameplay and FMV clips, the random words that popped up for nearly the entirety of the video’s duration–”crisis” and “courage,” “dreams” and “adventure,” “heroes” and “villains,” “good” and “evil”–filled my head with visions of a land of fantastic technology and magic, a dramatic story involving memorable characters, and a grand quest that would truly be, as one of those random words indicated, “epic.” This trailer did such a good job of oiling the hype machine that I would pop this OPM demo disc into my PlayStation and watch the trailer a couple of times almost every day until the game’s June 30th, 1998 release.
So did The Granstream Saga end up being the amazing experience I thought it would be when I finally got to play it? Well, you can find out by watching the video collaboration I did with Super Derek here. The short answer is no, it did not. Like most things that seem too good to be true, the epic fantasy adventure I conjured up in my head was nowhere to be found within the 0’s and 1’s of the disc. A few years later I would play Skies of Arcadia on the Dreamcast, and that was an RPG that more closely resembled what I had hoped for with this game. But to its credit, I really enjoy The Granstream Saga for what it is, and it’s a decent action RPG on the Sony PlayStation that fans of the genre should definitely give a fair shot.
After I got into PC gaming the first thing I did was look for games that were different from what I could experience on my old consoles. It wasn’t long before I found the video game developer Crytek. At this point Far Cry, Ubisoft’s Far Cry 2, Crysis, and Crysis Warhead had been released. I was expecting impressive visuals and physics but not much else. I bought each game, devoured it, and moved on to the next one. To my surprise, these beautiful and realistic worlds were more than mere tech demos. They were really fun to play! After beating Crysis and watching its cliffhanger ending I couldn’t wait for more. I worried that my computer would not be able to run a new and improved sequel. I was relieved when it was announced for consoles as well as PC but I wondered how the platform change would affect the game. Then Crytek released the Crysis 2 trailer…
Crysis 2 – The Wall opens with the wall of people who’ve gone missing during the evacuation of New York City. The inspiring “New York, New York” is being sung in a strained, broken voice causing the song to take on an eerie new meaning. It appears that after the events of the last game the protagonist Nomad has returned home knowing how to destroy the awoken aliens. But it’s too late and he is greeted with a surreal deserted New York. He bends down to examine a missing persons flyer as a group of helicopters pass overhead. Inside one of the helicopters we see a soldier, and he sees movement in one of the buildings. Before he can focus, the helicopters fly into an ambush. This moment captures the complete helplessness of the military and its citizens against their unexpected enemies. The soldiers are not prepared. The swift bipedal aliens pick them off one-by-one. The remaining soldier hesitates, then pulls the pin on his grenade hoping to take a few aliens with him. A block down the road the protagonist, still in shock, hears the explosion; “It’s up to you. New York, New York.” The explosion is sobering. He clenches his fist, looks at the camera, and I can almost hear him ask me, “Are you ready for this?”
I was excited! I had thoughts rushing through my head like: New York sandbox, recognizable landmarks, semi-destructible environments. With the development team and new game concept Crysis 2 could do no wrong. I pre-ordered it and waited. The game came out. The features that hooked me in the trailer were all present in the game. You play as a Marine in a Nanosuit with powers. Your stage is the desolate streets of New York and its landmarks. At times the sense of helplessness is felt when things like massive floods rush over you or bridges crumble beneath your feet. On the surface this sounds like a great sequel to Crysis.
However, the single way the trailer deceives you is by convincing you that this is the sequel to Crysis, it’s not. Prophet and his Nanosuit are the only remnants that Crytek kept from the original. You don a Nanosuit again, but it’s the Nanosuit 2.0 this time. In lieu of the superhero-like powers the Nanosuit 2.0 has powers simplified and integrated into your actions and weapons. The flying aliens from the first game are gone along with their interesting biology and motivation. In their place are humanoid robot bunnies that behave just like your human opponents. Nomad and Syko (the characters I played and loved in Crysis and Crysis Warhead) are not even mentioned. The cliffhanger ending is left hanging. What’s worse is that it retcons the original Crysis to create a story with tons of plot holes and characters whose actions don’t make sense. I was pumped for this game, but Crysis 2 was a letdown. Still, Crysis 2 is not a bad game. I’d consider it average but bad by Crytek’s standards. Sadly, Crysis 2 had a lot of potential and wasted it. I still think about the soldier in the helicopter, and how I wanted to save him and his city.