Category Archives: playstation 2

Create your own Dark Cloud geographical landscapes

Back in April 2017, I was tabling at Camden Comic Con, selling my comic wares and keeping an eye out for any videogame-related cosplayers. Alas, didn’t see a single one, but there were several for Stranger Things and Sailor Moon, go figure. That said, a few tables away from me was a business whose name I no longer recall selling retro videogames, and by retro, yes, sadly, I mean PlayStation 2, PlayStation 1, and similar ilk of that time period. Wow. Man, I remember when retro meant Atari; hashtag I’m so old. However, in better news, I was able to reacquire a copy of Dark Cloud for a few bucks, one of the first games I originally got with my PlayStation 2, but ultimately ended up trading in for something else, an action I greatly regret to this day.

One of the PlayStation 2’s first big RPGs, Dark Cloud is a title that challenges players to not only battle enemies and solve puzzles, but also to create geographical landscapes using the Georama system, which limits a certain number of houses and items being placed in the world, as well as NPCs only being allowed in specific spots. The game was the first full-scale production by Level-5, a developer who would quickly go on to make some of my favorite titles down the road, such as Dragon Quest VIII: Journey of the Cursed King, Rogue Galaxy, and Professor Layton’s London Life from Professor Layton and the Last Specter, among several others. Here, I’ll name two more, just becauseFantasy Life and Ni no Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch.

Well, in Dark Cloud, you play as Toran, a young boy on an unforgettable journey of rebirth, revival, and hope. Not my words exactly; also, the early marketing for this game claimed this was a “Zelda killer,” which it definitely was not. The game begins as Colonel Flag Gilgister of the Lagoon Empire Army of the East attempts to awaken the Dark Genie, a legendary evil creature, whom Gilgister wishes to use to control the world. Upon summoning the genie, Gilgister orders him to attack the West. However, prior to the attack, Simba, the Fairy King, casts a protective spell around the land, sealing buildings, objects, and people inside magical orbs called Atla. Toran must harness the spirit of those destroyed to rebuild the lands in time for an epic confrontation. You’ll recreate demolished villages by re-building houses, hills, churches, volcanoes, and streams, populating these places with people, and you’ll even be able to control the weather. Ooh ahh.

All in all, Dark Cloud is an action role-playing game played from a third-person perspective, in which the player moves through procedurally-generated dungeons, battling monsters, collecting items, and doing their best to manage a bunch of different meters. This may have been my actual first taste of randomized levels; sorry, Rogue. In these dungeon levels, the player may have the option of entering a separate “back door” area that contains stronger monsters and rarer treasure. Most of the combat involves real time hacking and slashing, along with a lot of stepping to the side, but the player will occasionally “duel” a boss-like enemy, which boils down to a quick time event (QTE); alas, these aren’t all that exciting, but this was the beginning of the era for QTEs.

Here’s one of the two things I greatly dislike about Dark Cloud–while in dungeons, you have both a health meter and a thirst meter. The thirst meter gradually decreases over time, and, when fully depleted, it causes the health meter to begin to decrease. That sucks. To prevent the thirst meter from depleting, Toran must drink water from his inventory or use a small pool found in some dungeon levels. It’s not the most fun thing to keep on top of, forcing you to move through dungeons as quick as possible, almost frantically, which leads me to great dislike number two in the next paragraph…because it deserves its very own paragraph.

Weapons have durability and will, without constant care, degrade and eventually break completely, disappearing from your inventory. How sad and cruel. You can upgrade weapons after they gain a specific amount of experience, infusing them with extra abilities and bonuses, and all of that can be lost if you aren’t careful and continue swinging away at monsters while your weapon teeters on the edge of breaking. Early on, this is a major problem, because you only have access to a couple of weapons, and the mayor will give you one free weapon repair powder each time you talk to him, but only if you don’t have any in your inventory; I have not gotten to the point where I can unlock a shop yet. So my dungeon crawling has gone a lot like this–enter dungeon, fight monsters until weapon almost breaks, repair once, fight monsters until weapon almost breaks, stop fighting monsters, hopefully find key to get to next floor, run around frantically, leave, go back to town, and stock up on items from the mayor. It’s fine, but not very thrilling, and I’m hoping that the weapon upgrade system becomes something I can really dig into, like in Rogue Galaxy.

Still, I love the Georama system very much in Dark Cloud, which should surprise no one. I mean, my favorite part of the Suikoden series is watching my castle fill up with people and seeing where everyone goes and what they can offer me. This sort of hits the same vibe, with some slight differences. After you acquire enough orbs, you can begin placing houses, trees, and ponds wherever you like (so long as it all fits nicely); for houses, you then have to fill in specific slots with items, such as beds, barrels, benches, and who lives there. I just got a llama for Toran’s home…well, barn area. It’s fun to find the right item to slot in and complete a full structure and then go out and meet your new neighbor.

I’ve never got too far in my original copy of Dark Cloud before trading it in, certainly not far enough to unlock fishing or other people to play as, which I know is in the game thanks to reading its manual. I’m hoping to make a bigger dent now and am excited to watch Norune Village grow at my discretion. Stay tuned for further updates down the road. If I build a road, that is.

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Paul’s Preeminent PlayStation Plus Purge – Legend of Kay Anniversary

Here’s an oldie, but also a sorta newbie–Legend of Kay Anniversary. Evidently, the original Legend of Kay came out on the PlayStation 2 back in early 2005 from German developer Neon Studios, but I’ve never heard of it until now. This newer version of the game comes with improved graphics and online leaderboards for players to compare scores, and it was released on just about everything under the sun, namely PC, Mac, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, and the Nintendo Wii U on July 28, 2015, as well as later ported to the Nintendo Switch last May. So, kind of hard to miss…except I have chosen to constantly skip past it on my protracted PlayStation Plus list since getting a digital copy back in March 2018 because, well, to be honest, I need to be in a specific mood for this type of character-action game.

Let’s start off with a whole bunch of lore that will either mystify you or cause your brain to melt out your ears. Because it’s a lot. For many generations, the mystical land of Yenching had been inhabited by many animals, mainly cats, hares, frogs, and pandas. Due to a religious code called the Way, these four races had prospered throughout the ages in their own separate towns. However, as the years passed, the younger generations began to defect from the Way. Ultimately, with no protective code to guide the races, Yenching was invaded by gorillas and rats (known as the Din), led by Gorilla Minister Shun and Tak, the Rat Alchemist. Minister Shun now rules the majority of Yenching with an iron fist and is said to reside in the volcanic mountain of Waa-Lo. Got it. Ultimately, after all that, Legend of Kay Anniversary is about a young cat-warrior named Kay who tries to save his once-peaceful island.

The first thing I had to do in Legend of Kay Anniversary was invert the camera controls, with this being a PlayStation 2 game. Times sure have changed when it comes to that. Also, the voice acting in this thing is…woof. Or should I say meow? Either way, it’s atrocious, full of stilted language and phoney 90s-esque attitude, and a part of me wonders if all games from this era had lackluster voice-work or if it is just this beast. I mean, I’m the guy that, in my mind, still thinks Ty the Tasmanian Tiger was a fun-as-heck romp, but worries that if I was ever to return to it I’d discover it’s just as iffy as Legend of Kay Anniversary. Sometimes nostalgia is good, sometimes it breaks your heart.

Gameplay is what you probably already expect and very similar to other character action games of this time period, such as Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, Jak II, and Vexx. Except those were all better games; actually, wait, I can’t speak for Vexx, having never played it, but you know what I mean. You’ll run around a somewhat small, enclosed environment, picking up things like gold coins and other collectibles, and attacking enemies with your sword, either by mashing the attack button for a three-hit combo or using more sophisticated moves, like a downward strike while jumping. There’s some light platforming puzzles to solve as well, and the only neat thing I’ll say Legend of Kay Anniversary has going for itself is the way you can combo-chain from one  enemy or destructible item to another, which can take you to new, seemingly unreachable places.

Unfortunately, there are major issues with the game’s camera, which have always been a thorn in these types of games’ side. However, the twitchy and unpredictable nature of Legend of Kay Anniversary’s camera makes it an incredibly frustrating experience, making even basic moves like jumping from one level platform to another a test of one’s patience. Attempting to string together a series of combos or avoid being overwhelmed by a group of enemies increases its difficulty tenfold. If you find yourself in an enclosed area where the camera is forced to adapt, you can expect to frequently lose sight of Kay entirely.

Even though I was just pining after Haven: Call of the King recently, Legend of Kay Anniversary is not doing it for me. Maybe if it controlled a little better, because the amount of story here is surprisingly, but then again, I can’t stand listening to Kay talk out loud, nor do I completely agree with the strange language choices, such as a reliance on the word naughty. If anything is naughty, it’s this needless remaster. Younger gamers might like it, but that’s probably an insult to younger gamers, considering they murder me all the time in Fortnite.

Oh look, another reoccurring feature for Grinding Down. At least this one has both a purpose and an end goal–to rid myself of my digital collection of PlayStation Plus “freebies” as I look to discontinue the service soon. I got my PlayStation 3 back in January 2013 and have since been downloading just about every game offered up to me monthly thanks to the service’s subscription, but let’s be honest. Many of these games aren’t great, and the PlayStation 3 is long past its time in the limelight for stronger choices. So I’m gonna play ’em, uninstall ’em. Join me on this grand endeavor.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Haven: Call of the King

I don’t believe I ever got past the first couple of levels in Haven: Call of the King, and that’s part of why I regret trading it in. I never gave it a fair shake or saw much more of it past the opening area, where you mostly do a bunch of platforming while escaping a collapsing mine and explore Virescent Village in search of one of Haven’s friends.

Haven: Call of the King is a single-player PlayStation 2 game developed by Traveller’s Tales–yes, the LEGO people–and published by Midway. It came out way back in the day, specifically the year 2002. It’s a combination of different gameplay types, namely action platforming, puzzle solving, and some shooting. The game was intended to be the first chapter in a trilogy of games, but was a commercial flop upon release; as a result, the story was never finished. I’m pretty sure I got my used copy from GameStop for a measly few bucks, and it didn’t even come in a case if I recall correctly. At some point, I traded it in with a bunch of other games for something, which is why it is now starring in this beloved Grinding Down feature.

Here’s all I know of Haven: Call of the King‘s plot, based on the very limited amount of time I spent in its world. Lord Vetch and the Overlord talk about The Voice and mention something about the slave named Haven–how there has been some trouble regarding him. See, he is one of several people who are infected with a virus that requires a constant supply of antidote, which the despot Vetch controls. The scene then cuts to Haven in his home as he is working on building a mechanical bird called Talon. Haven is late for work, so he heads off to the mines. There, he finds his friend Chess being hassled by some guard. The henchman notices Haven is watching, so he turns and fires his laser at Haven. He misses, instead taking out a chunk of the wall and causing the mine to begin to collapse. The true point of the game though is for Haven to find some mysterious bell Vetch has hidden away. Why? I know not.

One of the things I remember standing out in a big way in Haven: Call of the King is that there are no loading screens between environments, unlike Crash Bandicoot. It’s done more like as in the first Jak and Daxter. The game does all its loading during very quick cutscene transitions between levels. I know that this is pretty commonplace nowadays, but back that it was a big deal. Evidently, there were numerous minigame types folded into the standard platformer gameplay that I never even got to touch. There’s a variety of vehicles, including a jetpack, a boat, an airplane, a jetcar (that’s better than a jetpack, yes?), a glider, and a spaceship, and each has various gameplay goals attached to it, such as dogfighting, racing, manning a gun turret, or completing simple mission objectives. It’s a game that seems stuffed to the brim with things to do. The first area alone has a number of different things to collect–cog wheels, blue lights, pulsating egg-like things, heart refills, and so on. You’d almost think of this as more of a collect-a-thon if there wasn’t also a huge focus on action sequences and nimble platforming.

One unique element to Haven: Call of the King‘s platforming gameplay revolves around Haven’s main weapon, which is called the mag-ball. It’s a yo-yo type of weapon, with a fairly short range and a very tiny business end; however, the problem was you simply didn’t have fine enough control over which way Haven was facing to aim it properly. There also wasn’t any kind of lock on or auto-aim to help take out enemies or burst acid/fire pots. The mag-ball can also be used on tracks in the air to get Haven from place to place, kind of like the grind boots from Ratchet & Clank.

While the game presented itself as cartoony and kid friendly, it definitely has some dark undertones to it, what with all the slavery business. Sounds like Haven: Call of the King ends on a dreary note, and that’s all she wrote, as this trilogy is certainly never going to be finished. A strange game, for sure, one of its time and era–Haven’s rather appropriate bit of facial hair really stamps this game into place–and I honestly do regret giving this one up. At least I can revisit it on YouTube whenever I’m in the mood to see how this all ultimately unfolded.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

Just grinded for seven hours in Suikoden III, ask me anything

When last I left off about my progress on Suikoden III, I was starting the game over, but this time I went with Chris Lightfellow instead of Hugo, thus seeing the game from a different perspective. I’ve completed all chapter ones for Hugo, Chris, and Geddoe, along with optional side story stuff, and was now ready to move into someone’s chapter two. Since I ended up finishing Geddoe last of the three and liked a lot of the characters I saw there, namely Queen, Jacques, and Joker, I decided to pick his chapter two to begin first…and oh boy was that a mistake. Allow me to tell you why.

The crew is currently holed up in Caleria, but wants to go to Le Buque in pursuit of…well, I don’t really know. Some boy-priest and a bunch of soldiers are hunting after the Flame Champion, and I guess this is something that interests our eclectic group. To be honest, the story in Suikoden III hasn’t been as gripping or memorable as previous games. Anyways, to get to Le Buque, the party must travel across the Mountain Path, which I did just fine, avoiding the optional Rock Golem boss and heading right for the next location…only to immediately walk into a boss fight that completely destroyed everyone in a matter of a few turns. So…I had some grinding to do, grr. At least seven hours worth, if my calculations are correct.

Everyone in the party–that’s Geddoe, Ace, Joker, Queen, Jacques, and Aila, if you didn’t know–was, at this point, around levels 30-31. By the time I was done doing my thing, they were all levels 37-38. Here’s how I did it, as unexciting as it sounds. I continued to wander the first section of the Mountain Path, back and forth, getting into a few fights; after my party had too much and I ran out of healing, I headed back to Caleria to sharpen weapons, upgrade armor, learn lessons, and then sleep and save at the inn. Rinse and repeat, rinse and repeat. Grinding is never fun, and I’ve even had to do some in EarthBound to get tough enough to beat the Titanic Ant and his Antoid goonies. But alas, here, it felt inevitable.

My true goal was not to immediately head back to Le Buque, but to defeat the Rock Golem and with ease, even though it was an optional boss fight. I wanted whatever goodies it held within the treasure chest it was guarding. The Rock Golem is slow, but it has heavy armor and packs a lot of physical power. When it charges up its fist for a special attack, it can hit up to four party members if they’re surrounding the beast, which is not good. My strategy was to immediately use Aila’s Clay Guardian when the battle starts to up everyone’s magic and defense. I then relied heavily on Queen, who has a Wind rune, to heal those that needed healing, and made sure everybody stayed above 150 HP. Victory came quite easy actually, and the treasure chest was full of goodies that should hopefully help in the beginning fight at Le Buque. Here’s hoping no more grinding is required, at least for this chapter.

I’m still not 100% in love with the combat in Suikoden III, which groups people into pairs. This means if you select “attack” for Geddoe, his partner Ace also will attack, even if you wanted him to use a healing item or rune power. It’s one or the other, and that locks you out of a lot of choices. This isn’t a huge deal in many of the minor battles, but boss fights require a little more strategy to keep everyone’s head above water. It’s also not really clear who can team up with each other for united attacks, but maybe I’m just not seeing it somewhere in the menus.

Lastly, my save data for Suikoden III currently says around 19 hours and change–though remember that at least seven hours was spent solely on grinding out levels and experience points–and I have still yet to acquire a castle headquarters. Sigh. Hopefully sometime soon!

LEGO The Incredibles needs to be a bit more flexible

Hey, remember when I played The Incredibles on PlayStation 2 and mostly hated everything it had to offer? Well, the good news is that LEGO The Incredibles is forty-five times better than that hunk of junk…though it still has its own issues to deal with. That said, it is one of the better LEGO games of recent memory, and I’m looking to hit 100% completion on it real soon, which is a lot more than I can say about LEGO City Undercover.

LEGO The Incredibles is a fairly fun-filled adventure that puts you in control of your favorite characters from the franchise, along with a bunch of familiar faces from other Pixar films, such as Sulley from Monsters, Inc. or Merida from Brave. You’ll have to team up as the superhero Parr family to conquer crime and relive in LEGO form the unforgettable scenes from The Incredibles and The Incredibles 2 movies. Strangely, the game starts with levels from the second movie first, but I guess that’s because this game was tied with the theater release of The Incredibles 2. I greatly enjoyed the sequel, but my heart will always call home that first flick…so it was a bit of a bummer to have to go through the game backwards.

It follows the standard format of most modern LEGO games now, which means there are long-as-heck story-related levels to complete, each with their own collectibles to find, along with a large hub world to run around in and complete other smaller tasks, such as time trial races or defusing bombs. A part of me feels like the hub world is quite small when compared to things like Middle-earth from LEGO The Lord of the Rings or even the multiple islands in LEGO Jurassic World, but maybe that’s because you can zip around it rather swiftly if you use any character that can fly. You can purchase a number of vehicles too, but again–why drive when you can zip through the skies, with or without a cape (no capes!)?

Something I did enjoy greatly in LEGO The Incredibles is getting to play as all the different superheroes, not just the Parr family, most of which are long dead by the time things get going in the first film. For instance, the game mixes things up so you can have a partner on Nomanisan Island, and your go-to-pal is none other than Gazerbeam. Sure, sure, he’s definitely dead in the movie due to taking part in Syndrome’s droid’s battle education, but at least now you can put a voice to the character and see how his powers work. Others to definitely try out include Dynaguy, Apogee, and Firebreak, who I used the most to fly around New Urbem. There’s a wealth of lore to dig through, and I got excited every single time I unlocked a superhero from the past; that said, Voyd is kinda cool too.

One of the elements of LEGO The Incredibles that gets truly repetitive is clearing out crime waves in each district. Basically, to rid the city of crime, you have to complete teeny side missions out in the hub world, such as “put out 10 fires” or “defeat three gangs of X’s goons,” and then beat up whatever iconic supervillain is behind it all. Once you do that, that district reveals all its collectibles on the map, gives you a Pixar Incredibuild to do, which just consists of a lot of button mashing, along with a red brick. The only beam of bright light among all this is that it is presented as a breaking news report, and the TV anchor uses every pun in the book to get the job done. I love puns.

LEGO The Incredibles is a good amount of fun, but some of that fun is watered down by really long loading screens, story levels that never seem to end, and repetitive elements, like crime waves, mindless combat, or doing Incredibuilds solo and having to mash the build button for four separate characters. Ugh. Still, I’m having fun with all the various superheroes (Old Lady is fantastic, too) and a few of the Pixar characters, though now I just want a LEGO Toy Story. That might actually be a thing that could happen with the forthcoming film on its way, and they already have a Woody model, along with three other films to build off of and–sorry, sorry, you caught me monologuing!

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Smuggler’s Run

To me, Smuggler’s Run was probably my first dip into an open world environment. The fact that I was driving a vehicle and could leave the road at any point for a zip through the desert, going left or right as I pleased, felt revolutionary at the time. In fact, this type of driving was encouraged, especially when the U.S. border patrol began chasing after you. I wasn’t locked into a course with walls and barriers or even invisible walls, forced to follow the path that the developer wanted me to follow, doing the same thing as anyone else playing the game was doing. I was a smuggler on the run, running how I saw fit.

Like I just said, in Smuggler’s Run, you play a smuggler who needs to prove himself in this underground world and has a number of different vehicles at his disposal to do so, including dune buggies, rally cars, and military vehicles. These vehicles are used to smuggle assorted cargo through three different large, open levels. It’s a fairly weak plot to begin with, and your mission objectives are spelled out for you via some quick narrative before each mission. The missions  range from basic smuggling operations that involve moving the contraband from point A to point B, to customized versions of a checkpoint race and the loot grab modes, to completely original objectives like destroying a series of radar towers.

Smuggler’s Run had a couple of different modes to explore, and I’ll cover ’em briefly here because, honestly, I really only played one mode over and over again before eventually using this game and some others as a trade-in offer for…well, I have no idea what I got for them, but that’s beside the point. Smuggler’s Mission mode is basically the story campaign I described in the previous paragraph, seeing you go through three consecutive levels (forest, desert, and snow) with about ten missions per level. Turf War mode had three different mini-games, two of which involved smuggling cargo while fighting against a rival gang; the final mini-game involved a race through a popular spot in a level. Lastly, Joyriding mode allowed you to freely roam to and fro in any level without having to deal with the U.S. border patrol or CIA, and it was a great way to get to know the ins and outs of any level before taking it on via the story missions.

If I recall correctly, your vehicle will take damage not only from collisions with other vehicles and objects, but also from bouncing all over the particularly rough terrain. When your damage meter runs out, your engine stalls, and if a police vehicle touches you while you’re stalled, you’ll be placed under arrest. If no cops are around, you can restart your engine and continue on your merry way…though chances of that were seriously unlikely. The AI-controlled police were absolutely relentless, chasing you everywhere you go, which is why I mostly spent my free time in the Joyriding mode, free from such hassles.

For its time, Smuggler’s Run looked fantastic. The game’s terrain is large and detailed, and pop-up and fog were nowhere to be found…though that giant green arrow pointing you to your mission objective was then and is now beyond fugly. Each of the three maps are massive, with the missions taking place in smaller sections, but you aren’t limited in where you can roam. There’s also quite amount of small details everywhere, such as tire marks, active wildlife, train tracks, and actual hiking trails, which are just things you expect nowadays, but really helped add a bit of realism to the game on the PlayStation 2.

Evidently, they made a sequel with Smuggler’s Run 2, though I never played it. The only interesting factoid I know about it is that the game was originally supposed to take place in Afghanistan, but following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, as well as the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan, the developers changed the Afghanistan levels to the deserts of Georgia/Russia instead. Rockstar also later released downloadable content for Grand Theft Auto Online named Smuggler’s Run, which added a customizable hangar and additional vehicles to play around with. At least they didn’t completely forget about this IP.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH: Midnight Club: Street Racing

This might be hard to believe, considering my long and well-documented love for all things racing games, but I willingly bought a copy of Midnight Club: Street Racing for the PlayStation 2 some time back in that wacky, inexplicable decade known as the aughts. I suspect I got it for cheap at the Blockbuster near my college’s campus when they started selling used games–or rather “previously rented”–but that’s just a suspicion, based mostly on the fact that that is where I got a small chunk of my early PS2 collection during my poorer days eating ramen noodles and working a few hours during the week in an art gallery. For the record, and yes, I just looked, here are all the games still in my collection rocking a “Previously Rented Game – Quality Guaranteed” label from the now defunct Blockbuster business:

Yup. Quite a super-squad there. With that said, let’s get on to the star of today’s show. Everybody, start your engines. Vroom vroom vroooooom…

Surprisingly, for a game centered around driving speedy cars quickly and aggressively, Midnight Club: Street Racing kind of had a story behind all its engine-driven action. Granted, around that timeframe, my experience was fairly limited to car-related adventures through things like Vigilante 8, Super Mario Kart, and Crash Team Racing, where vehicular combat was the central element, and it didn’t matter who was behind the wheel so long as they could toss projectiles out like everyone else. So, taking place in both New York City and London, you’re a bored-as-bored-gets cabbie looking for some street-style racing action…for reasons. Magically, you stumble across your first challenger named Emilio and are then invited to join the titular Midnight Club to continue proving your worth and burning gang leaders in races. There’s no real introduction, and the dialogue sections are flat images with character portraits speaking while two cars sit idly next to each other. Look, it’s not Great Expectations, or even Fast Five, but it’s something.

Not shockingly, when you see that Rockstar had a hand in this, but Midnight Club: Street Racing is a bit open-worldish. Y’know, a genre just starting to hit its stride then. You’re able to cruise around the respective cities, looking for trouble in the form of hookmen, which are visible on your mini-map, which, when you glance at the screenshot above, defies the definition of the word mini greatly. I mean, that was the UI for the era–big, bright, and loud. Anyways, once you get behind them, you’ll have to keep up with their ride until they feel that you’re worthy of a race, which is you against that driver’s entire posse. Also, you can call up these hookmen on your cell phone–a novel concept back then–for a more fair one-on-one race. If you win the race, you get to add your opponent’s car to your garage, which I guess is akin to carving up a dead animal and wearing its skin as a prize. I don’t know a lot about cars.

I remember being initially impressed by the scale of Midnight Club: Street Racing offered, but do remember the cities feeling lifeless and empty. Now, I’ve only ever been to New York City, and I remember a lot of cars and honking while there, as well as swarms of people; here, it is just mostly empty streets, with little traffic to deal with, and that just wouldn’t cut it today. Still, one must consider that this game came out before things like Grand Theft Auto III and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2. It was also frustrating that, to even start a race with another member of the Midnight Club, you needed to follow them to the starting line first, weaving through traffic and praying they didn’t get too far ahead of your slow whip, which was often more challenging than the race itself.

Most races are checkpoint races, which means you can veer off the beaten path so long as you hit all the checkpoints and cross the finish line before anyone else. That might sound like there’s a ton of freedom at hand, but this is a condensed city-scape and not miles of Smuggler’s Run‘s open terrain, and there were generally only one or two ways to get the job done efficiently. If rubbing and racing isn’t your thing, well…there’s an arcade mode, which lets you set up head-to-head, checkpoint, and two-player races. Also, some sort of capture the flag mode where you need to bump into the car carrying the flag to steal it and then deliver to some hotspot on the map. I don’t believe I ever took down the gang champion of New York City, thus never even seeing the second half of the game set in London.

I have no idea if Midnight Club: Street Racing hold up in 2018, and I’m not interested in finding out. Still, if I had my copy around, I might pop it in randomly one night for a zip down memory lane, but oh well. Much like Blockbuster, this franchise stalled years ago, and newer, more efficient racers have taken the lead, like Burnout Paradise.

GAMES I REGRET PARTING WITH is a regular feature here at Grinding Down where I reminisce about videogames I either sold or traded in when I was young and dumb. To read up on other games I parted with, follow the tag.