I’ve got a tendency to be pretty serious here at Intelligame, but I think every-so-often it’s worthwhile to just kick back and talk about games for the sake of talking about games, reminiscing about old times or getting excited about new ones. Hence the new, completely original, 100% unique, never-used-in-any-other-context Casual Friday! Expect posts on Fridays that lighten the mood, tell good stories, get all retro/introspective, or just plain revel in the goodness of gaming.
By the way, it’s required that you listen to the soundtracks while reading this article. Try to tell me they’re not completely phenomenal. Go ahead, just try. It’s hard for me to even focus on writing this article while listening to the soundtrack, I love it so freaking much.
Nostalgia is king at the box office, and we found that out when the new Jurassic Park movie came out this past year and smashed box office records. Most all of us have Jurassic Park moments in our memories somewhere, maybe in a movie theater or sitting at home on the couch. I never spent much time with the movie, but all my memories are bundled with a gray-and-purple box called the Super Nintendo. My parents got me my Super Nintendo for my tenth birthday; I can quite literally say that gift changed my life. From then on, I dragged my parents as often as I could to the local Video Outlet to rent a new game. Jurassic Park was a 5-night rental for just 2 dollars (I think it was 2 dollars, anyway), and I needed all 5 nights since I’d have to wait for Dad to come home so I could play. That wasn’t a parental requirement, by the way: that was a personal choice. This game was the first to outright petrify me, and I can’t help but love it all these years later.
Back in the days of the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, it wasn’t uncommon for the same intellectual property to get farmed out to two different companies, resulting in two very different games appearing on the two consoles. I still remember being so jealous of friends with Segas because they clearly had the better version of Disney’s Aladdin…but that’s a story for another day.
In the meantime, two very different versions of Jurassic Park appeared on the scene; the Sega one was a side-scrolling action game that allowed you to play as either Dr. Grant or a raptor. The SNES version, on the other hand, was a hybrid action puzzle game; you controlled Dr. Grant as you searched the island to gather missing dinosaur eggs. When you were outside, you foraged for weapons like shotguns and bolas rifles, found the ID cards of people like Dennis Nedry to access new territories, and ran from stampeding gallimimuses and triceratopses. But certain terminals and key cards were inside control rooms, and that meant a change in perspective…
The second this music came on, my pulse shot up. The game changed from a top-down overview of the area surrounding Alan Grant to a first-person view similar to the original Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, PC-shooters of the era which my parents wouldn’t let me play because they were ” too violent.” The corridors felt overwhelmingly cramped, I could feel the velociraptors’ footsteps on the ground, smell the acid stink of the dilophosaurus’ spit in the air. Suddenly I couldn’t see my gun, and even if I could, everything felt short-ranged, weak, paltry in comparison to the vicious teeth of the oncoming predators.
I tried to go through it on my own once or twice, I think. I remember the screen flashing red as a raptor’s mouth opened wide in front of my face time and again, roaring at me as it seemingly sunk its teeth into my flesh. That was apparently all the experience I needed for a long, long time. It’s interesting though, now, that first-person shooters are one of my favorite genres, and I really enjoy atmospheric horror games like Dead Space and The Last of Us. Hmm.
Yeah, it’s easy to look at that image and laugh at it today since it’s child’s play compared to the graphics we see on TV and in gaming now. But I tell you, when I played this game as a kid, the fear was ALL TOO REAL. So whenever I reached the point where I’d have to go in to that shed, I’d simply turn the TV off and wait for my dad to get home, handing him the controller to navigate through the dark corridors and face off against the dinosaurs. Something tells me he probably got scared a couple of times while playing, too…but he played it anyway, because that’s what Dads should do, after all. I can look back now and realize how lucky I was to have him put up with me tugging at him, begging for him to go through these levels when he’d just gotten off of work or come inside from mowing the lawn. Like I cared about work? I just wanted to get Malcolm’s keycard!
Years later, in middle school, I’d hang out with my best friend and play Super Nintendo over at his place after school. Turned out he had a copy of Jurassic Park, too. We spent time playing it, trying to find all the eggs, but we never managed to beat it completely. And it wasn’t because of my fear of the buildings anymore: the N64 had come out, and along with it came Goldeneye 007, the first-person shooter that basically grandfathered competitive FPS multiplayer. Think AI raptors on a 16-bit system are scary? Try 64-bit, 3D enemies with real guns! Or even worse: friends controlling other characters hunting you down in tight, multiplayer arenas…I was pretty bad at the game, so it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear a BANG, then see my screen fill slowly with red and drop to the ground…deal with that a few times and flat raptors don’t mean much to you.
But all that’s besides the point.
Even though my friend and I could never manage to track down the one missing egg we needed to find to complete the game, we always had a good time hanging out and playing Jurassic Park. Since it was only a single-player game, that usually meant one of us was playing the SNES while the other played his own game on a Game Boy of some kind (cell phones of any kind weren’t a thing yet, and “mobile gaming” usually meant either a Game Boy or a Game Gear). Even today, 15 years later, we still can sit in the same room, play two completely different games and not talk much to each other, but it’s comfortable, enjoyable. I can’t help but think Jurassic Park had something to do with that.
Many people consider the Jurassic Park for the Sega the “better game,” but I’ve never really felt a drive to play it since those days. A different friend of mine had it in elementary school, and I remember playing it at her house and just feeling…not that enthused. It was dark, overly intense…and most of all, the music wasn’t great. But I can also admit that, even if Jurassic Park for SNES wasn’t a “great game,” it was MY game, one of the titles that cemented gaming’s importance in my life, giving me opportunities to spend time with both my father and my best friend. Maybe I didn’t value those times as much as I should have back then, but now that I’m two time zones away, I realize those moments on Isla Nublar were pretty important, and it makes me value all the moments I’ve shared with friends and family taking on the unknown together.