[Tooth & Arrows] Retro Gaming Wednesday #4

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

I’m having some technical difficulties with the streaming play throughs. So today I’m going to just talk about retro gaming. Specifically, a favorite game from my PS1 gaming days.

Like Animorphs, another game I enjoyed greatly when I first got it was Disney’s Dinosaur for the Playstation. Following in the vein of discussing beloved games that I can’t actually do play-throughs of right now due to not being able to find my external disk drive, I’m going to talk about that game for awhile.

Dinosaur was the game my parents got me when they first bought me the Playstation. It was the year 2000, and I had no idea that in five years I would live halfway across the country from them. Certainly no idea where I’d be sixteen years later. No, my priority was, at the time, honestly…getting to see the movie Dinosaur again. We’d gone to see it for my birthday that year, and I’d fallen in love with it. Even though, as my father said at the time, it was rather like watching “The Land Before Time” with better graphics.dinosaur2

I researched the film intensely, the tech and character design and everything behind it. I spent a lot of my time reading about that movie, and the rest thinking about it when I wasn’t busy with something else. It was one of my first film-related obsessions as a geeky teenager. Then one day I was playing Playstation games at the local FunCoLand (a buy/sell/trade video game store that’s since been put out of business by things like GameStop), where they had multiple titles and multiple systems set up for people to play. I heard the music I recognized from the opening of Dinosaur and I looked around because the movie wasn’t supposed to be on VHS for a few more months.

I was shocked to see the Egg Travels scene playing out on a nearby Playstation console. I stared, trying to figure out what I was seeing – and then the game transitioned from the opening cut scene into the actual game. It was a GAME. Disney’s Dinosaur had a game out that actually played scenes from the movie!

I didn’t have a PS1 at the time – I was still firmly a Sega Genesis gamer. But I told my parents about it when they came to pick me up, and little did I know that set the wheels in motion. My parents saved and got me a Playstation for either that Christmas or my following birthday – I want to say it was Christmas now that I think about it, since I know Dinosaur wasn’t out on VHS yet when I got the game.

It was the only game I had for Playstation for awhile, but that didn’t make it get old. I was determined to beat it despite getting stuck several times, but the lure of the cut scenes drove me onward until I finally beat the game. There are cut scenes of the movie at pivotal points in the game. However, no cut scene explains one thing in particular.

disney_dinosaur_02_medWhy is one of the playable characters a Pteranodon?

As anyone who’s seen the movie knows, the Pteranodon was nothing more than a plot device to get Aladar’s egg to the lemur island. It wasn’t a character. In fact, despite that it’s shown intending to feed the egg to it’s own babies, I’m not even sure it’s female. Who’s to say that Pteranodons weren’t more like modern birds of prey and shared parenting duties?

This all being as it is, the Pteranodon in the game isn’t avoidable. She’s a mentor-like character and is with them all the way. Similar to the Sega Genesis Pocahontas game, you switch between the three characters based on what you need them to do. This system was familiar to me because of Pocahontas, but still took some getting used to.

The top-down view in the game was so different from any of the games I’d played previously (remember, Sega Genesis was largely side-scrollers and mock 3D with no real depth). It also can’t be classified as a platformer, as there’s no real depth to it. There’s no jumping (if my memory serves me right – keep in mind I haven’t been able to play this game for many years), and while Zini (the lemur character) can climb trees and interact with things that take him “up” and “down,” you as a player can’t really effect that. The Pteranodon character (who’s name begins with F and I’m forgetting right now), is almost constantly in flight. And while this causes her to zoom around and makes her very good at getting you a look at an entire map with very little interference (there are aerial bad guys, but they’re usually easy to avoid), it doesn’t really give the game a sense of up/down depth. Aladar, the Iguanadon protaganist and final playable character, is fairly limited as well.

However, despite all these shortcomings, I do love this game. It’s one I’m looking forward to getting to play again once I find my missing disk drive.

Next Retro Wednesday, I hope to have an actual bit of gameplay for you. I may just be streaming and talking about Spyro the Dragon, though, so be ready for that! Retro Gaming Wednesdays are on average every other Wednesday on this blog and, if a play-through is going on, my Twitch channel.

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