As I mentioned in the last FGC post, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of being hyperbolic about games, whether it be glowing praise involving wanting to have a developer’s babies, or horrifying condemnation and calling for a producer’s head on a pike. I’d hate to blame the internet for this behavior, because the truth is that headlines have been the order of the day since the invention of the printing press. Nobody wants to pay a newsy to bark about clear skies and a happy day, no, you want that lil’ scamp screaming about how the sky is falling and maybe an Orange Lantern is running for president.
The real world isn’t all headlines, though; in fact, it is mostly business as usual. For the average person, there isn’t a crisis a day, and the television is still pumping out 570 channels of the same thing it spewed out yesterday. Video games are no different: there are blockbusters once a quarter or so, but most of the time, this week’s releases are just as forgettable as last week’s offerings. Hell, Gamestop’s entire business model is based on the idea that you’re going to get tired of game x faster than game y is released; the whole thing falls apart if there really is a “must buy” video game every Tuesday.
The blockbuster mentality permeates video game history like any entertainment medium, and leads to some odd misconceptions. There are, I believe, 300 released N64 games in North America. Here’s a challenge: name fifteen. Bonus points for not including Link or Mario. If you actually did come up with that list, it likely featured a mix of successes (Goldeneye 007, Mischief Makers), failures (War Gods, Clayfighter 63 ⅓), and maybe some old standbys (Madden NFL ’99, Jeopardy). Even if we were to consider that extremes account for a full third of the N64 library, which seems like a large number, we’d still be left with 200 games that are just kind of… there. Sorry, Fighters Destiny, you’re just floating in the middle.
And it’s in this roundabout manner that we find DinoCity (No space? Okay). Dinocity is a SNES platformer set in a variety of different environments featuring a human riding a dinosaur and fighting hordes of prehistoric forces. It was released over a year after Super Mario World, so let’s just nix the idea that this is a remotely original idea for a platformer. In fact, this game is based on a movie that I’m not sure even really exists. I know there were like seventeen Land Before Time movies, but I’m at a loss trying to remember a movie featuring a radical 90’s kid getting sucked into a science experiment to hang out with hip dinosaurs. Seriously, that is exactly the kind of movie I would have watched about a billion times in the early 90’s, so I’m pretty sure the entire thing is some elaborate ruse. It’s okay, Dinocity, you don’t have to make up an entire film to justify your existence. People bought Aero the Acrobat, and that game was based on nothing more than hate and malice.
Dubious origins aside, Dinocity is a perfectly competent platformer. You have the option of controlling Timmy or a girl whose name I don’t know because she doesn’t wear her name on her shirt. Both Timmy and Girl have dinosaur companions that do all the heavy lifting, though you can dismount your dino buddy on occasion to jump around like a Castlevania fleaman. Aside from a few places that absolutely require the extra altitude of leaping off a dinosaur, there is never any reason to do this. But I suppose it’s nice to leave the option available. Don’t want Girl getting saddlesore. Your dinosaur choices are Rex the T-Rex and Tops the Protoceratops, and, oddly, the T-Rex is the dinosaur with the weakest offense. Tops shoots little bolts from her fists, while Rex just utilizes a melee attack with his buff-for-a-t-rex arms. The difference is tremendous, akin to playing Mega Man 3 only using the Mega Buster or only using Top Spin. Oh yeah, the humans have stun guns that are available when they’re exploring on their own, and they’re just about as offensively effective as, oh, I don’t know, Rush Coil. Don’t leave your dinosaurs, boys and girls.
Whether it be Tops or Rex, your dinosaur explores a series of six levels that each include a bunch of wildly disparate stages. We’re talking grass field to ice cave to electric warehouse to grass field to elevator… and then you fight a genius neanderthal as a boss. And that’s just in the first level! The following level closes with a pair of giant sand worms, and the third is some kind of amusement park/koopaling castle. There’s a lot of variety in these levels, but not a lot of cohesion. Also, about every third thing has spikes on it, not of the instant kill variety, thankfully, but there’s enough thorny bits to go around that jumping most anywhere requires a lot of looking before that leaping. Point is, this isn’t a “hold Y and sprint to the goal” kind of SNES platformer.
And it’s all perfectly capable, but perhaps a little forgettable. There were approximately eleventy billion cartoony platformers on the SNES before a certain hedgehog made his debut and ushered in another trillion imitators. This isn’t something amazing like Donkey Kong Country or Tiny Toons, but it’s also not a complete turd like Bubsy or Super Troll Island, it’s just… there.
Dinocity, good job being… just there.
FGC #25 Dino City
- System: Super Nintendo
- Number of players: 2 players, alternating, like, say, Super Mario World.
- Sexual Dimorphism: Aside from the female dino being dramatically better than the male, there’s also the enemies, which consist of a bunch of grubby neanderthal men and one cavewoman that looks like she just stepped off the catwalk. Dinocity is a classy place.
- Easier than Battletoads? By a country mile. Though this is another one of those weird games where there are limited continues, but you can start from any level with an easily provided/entered password. Assuming you have a pen and paper, you could probably beat this game inside of a few hours.
- Did you know? Tops is a protoceratops. Protoceratops remains have been found in mines going back thousands of years, and it’s believed that ancient Greeks being exposed to these bones dreamed up the griffin as a result of seeing these “beaked” creatures. It’s kind of funny that it took us, what, a few thousand years to circle back to “dinosaurs are birds,” when our ancestors kinda nailed it from the get-go.
- Would I play again? Nope. It’s not a bad game, I just see absolutely no reason to play it. There is nothing here that says, “Oh man, I’d like to revisit that.” Nothing.
What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Final Fantasy 8. Seriously? Alright, I already put in my time with this game back on the Talking Time forums, so I’m just going to HD up that post. If you’ve already read it, there’ll be pictures; if you haven’t read it, then it’s new to you. Please look forward to it!