Jurassic Park was a cultural phenomenon because it combined the two things that people love most:
- Looking at Dinosaurs
Once it hit those two essential beats, Jurassic Park could have been the sad tale of two kids that go to the worst summer camp ever, it was going to be a success. Luckily, Steven Spielberg didn’t just rest on his dino-laurels, and decided to include a plot that at least moderately utilized science/Jeff Goldblum/Jeff Goldblum doing science. There are dinosaurs, there are hackers, and, somewhere along the line, Santa Claus learns that nature finds a way (to eat your lawyer).
When you sit down and look at the basic plot of Jurassic Park, however, you see that it was already a videogame all along. Theme parks are ideal for videogames, as they naturally produce interesting and eclectic levels without having to generate an excuse for why the volcano is six feet from the sewer. Random dinosaurs create an army of easy mooks (that one spitting dork), mid-bosses (raptors), and final bosses (terrible thunder lizards). The kids can either serve for an escort mission or some kind of assistive advice dispenser, and maybe we can toss in a hacking minigame or something. Oh! And Grant is a paleontologist! That’s a fine excuse for a fetch quest for dinosaur eggs or triceratops dung or whatever we can find. Jurassic Park the Motion Picture may as well have come with a controller, because it’s halfway to your preferred console already.
And, though I loathe to admit it, given the choice, Jurassic Park for the Super Nintendo would likely be exactly the game I’d create with the Jurassic Park license. Well, not exactly, but the fundamentals are there. It’s a top-down adventure-esque game in the Zelda vein. And that’s a great start! It would be easy to make Grant an action hero, but he is more of a science nerd, so it makes more sense to see him inhabiting an elf’s Pegasus boots. And the general plot and mood of the game is not one of oppressive dino-danger, it’s much more akin to a stroll through a (Jurassic) park. Granted, it’s a park where you could be devoured at any time, but the “have fun and explore” sunny blue skies and lush, green grass is a lot more inviting than a thunderstorm. And that’s what Jurassic Park is about! Sure, it’s a big, scary trek through a naturalistic horror of man’s creation, but a solid half of the movie is given over to the wonder anyone would experience when confronted with Barney’s more savage cousins. A Jurassic Park that doesn’t pause to let the player enjoy Jurassic Park seems contrary to the spirit of the movie itself, and it would be far too easy to turn JP into Grant’s murderathon.
But other than that? Jurassic Park for the SNES kind of sucks.
Jurassic Park is very Zelda-like. In fact, it’s very much like the original Legend of Zelda, a game that tells you it’s dangerous to go alone, hands you a sword, and then provides no more information. Sure, we’ve all taken it for granted with decades of Nintendo Power and speed running and maybe a cartoon or two, but The Legend of Zelda is a very confusing experience for someone with absolutely no context. What are you supposed to be doing? Why are you collecting triangles? Are these rupees for something? And why did that orange mush eat my shield? There is no Zelda tutorial, and, if you hit start on that title screen as quickly as possible, it’s entirely possible a new player would have absolutely zero information on so much as Link’s basest objective (kill pig wizard). In a similar manner, Jurassic Park welcomes you to Jurassic Park, and… that’s it. You’re on your own, Grant, and your objectives are about as clear as molasses. Kill dinosaurs? Collect eggs? Earn a high score? Nedry didn’t leave you a manual, and the occasional tip to “avoid t-rexes” isn’t exactly the most useful thing to learn after becoming tyrannosaurus poop for the third time.
But even assuming you’re not the most goal oriented player in the world (the goal of any theme park is to have fun!), you’re still stuck with a pretty lousy experience. Grant moves at a snail’s pace, and velociraptors… don’t. Ammo is limited, and your default, rechargeable weapon is a stun gun (lightning blaster?) that actually stuns. Knock out a dinosaur, waste too much time investigating the area, and then discover that that toothy grin is back up and barreling down on our poor hero. Dinosaurs and traps come out of nowhere, health is difficult to recover, and saves or passwords are out of the question. It’s a game where you have no idea what you’re doing, and you’re inevitably doing it poorly.
And we haven’t even gotten to the best part! The “dungeons” of Jurassic Park were 3-D, FPS-esque affairs. This could be interesting on a system that wasn’t the SNES, at a time that wasn’t the dawn of the FPS. But on this system, in this epoch? It’s terrible. The SNES controller is not equipped in any way for a FPS, and a thousand Grant corpses being devoured by a million raptors is a testament to this fact. And never mind that the graphics for these areas are just a step above something a dilophosaurus might spit out. And the back of the box has the audacity to claim “no polygons or two-dimensional sprites here! Ocean’s exclusive REAL 3-D graphics will have you screaming… for more.” I take personal offense at every word in that sentence.
Bah! This game sucks! What’s happening in the Sega Genesis version?
Oh, I get a choice of characters? And the other choice is… a raptor?
A jump kicking gangsta raptor!?
And I can screw with Grant? For points?
Yes! Raptor! Save the world!
Okay, yeah, Sega wins this round.
Being a dinosaur is the best.
FGC #372 Jurassic Park (SNES) & Jurassic Park (Sega Genesis)
- System: Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis for this review, but also available on every other system that was available in the early 90’s. Did you know there was a NES version? It was the Gameboy version, but with color!
- Number of players: This is going to be a good week for single player experiences.
- Further complaints: SNES Park has a number of dinosaur enemies… and giant dragonflies. In the one game that is all about dinosaurs, they somehow ran out of dinosaurs. I hate everything.
- Favorite Weapon (both versions): Is this where my love of rocket launchers originates? Grant can find a few in either game, and exploding dinosaurs into meaty chunks is always a good time.
- Other Genesis Options: You can play as Grant in Genesis Park. It is not worth it. Oh, someone incorporated the river level? Well la di da. Grant can’t eat lil’ dinos for health, and I don’t want to deal with that.
- Did you know? The animators for Genesis Park (including Doug TenNapel) studied real, live lizards to properly animate the dinosaurs that would inevitably devour poor Grant. The creators of SNES Park, meanwhile, stuck sharp sticks in their eyes so they could properly convey human pain to the audience.
- Would I play again: SNES Park is never happening ever. Genesis Park is a solid maybe, but only because of one thing, and that rhymes with “Slayable Maptor”.
What’s next? We’re closing out our SNES vs. Genesis duel with one wish: world peace. Just kidding. We wished for Aladdin, and it’s coming up next. Please look forward to it!