It was in 1997 that the Nintendo 64 reached Europe and Australia, and Ken Levine, Jonathan Chey and Robert Fermier founded the legendary Irrational Games studio, which in the future will give us such masterpieces as System Shock 2 and Bioshock.

On top of that, 1997 was another year filled with high-profile releases that won the most awards at gaming shows and are still considered video game classics.

1997 in the gaming industry

Final Fantasy VII

One of the most famous Japanese Final Fantasy series includes 15 main titles, the total sales of which have already jumped the mark of 144 million copies. However, at E3 2019, we were reminded that Final Fantasy VII is still our favorite part of the lineup, the long-awaited remake of which is due out on March 3, 2020.

“As a rule, you develop a game after you understand the new hardware. However, in the case of FF7, we had to deal with everything at the same time. It’s amazing that we ended up with such an impressive result,” says chief programmer Ken Narita.

1997 in the gaming industry

Right from the start, Square knew they were developing a 3D game. In general, a distinctive part of the development of FF7 was the fact that almost the entire design, along with the script, was approved at the very beginning. Previously, developers had to come up with ideas, given the limits of the console. In the case of FF7, this problem no longer existed.

80-90% of the game was made by members of the original team, and various CG specialists were called in to create cinematic cutscenes, including people from companies such as Digital Domain and Industrial Light Magic.

1997 in the gaming industry

“Visually, I wanted all parts of FF7 to be done in the same style. Cut-scenes, map, battles should not differ from each other in style,” explained the director of the game, Yoshinori Kitase.

If in the sixth part the players were offered a dozen main characters, then in the seventh the developers decided to tell the story of one character, namely Cloud.

1997 in the gaming industry

As for animation, unlike previous parts in FF7, each character was animated by the designers themselves without the help of animation specialists. As a result, each character moved in his own way, depending on the tastes of his author.

One of the brightest distinguishing parts of not only FF7, but every part of the series is the soundtrack, and this time the developers wanted to make sure that players do not have to listen to the same songs over and over again. Although, of course, this is very difficult to achieve in a game that takes 40 hours or more to complete, composer Nobuo Uematsu gave it his all.

1997 in the gaming industry

“I know a lot of players were hoping that since we moved to the PlayStation, instead of chiptunes, you could hear full-fledged studio-quality music in the game. However, we decided to write everything with the help of the Playstation stuffing in order to reduce the loading time of the game, ”said Uematsu.

After its release in January, it became clear that Final Fantasy VII could be the most successful game of 1997. In just three days, more than two million copies were sold.

1997 in the gaming industry

Tekken 3

After the development of the second part of the Tekken fighting game series was completed, the development team from Namco began to think about a sequel. The new filling of the Namco System 12 arcade machines allowed them to significantly raise the level of graphics.

1997 in the gaming industry

In addition to upgrades to the combat system, work has been done on the behavior of opponents. If in the first and second parts AI of the opponents acted based on how the player behaved, then in the third part an element of randomness was added to this system, which significantly increased the complexity of the game.

1997 in the gaming industry

Instead of once again increasing the number of characters, the developers decided to start over and spent three years developing a new batch of heroes.

Motion Capture featured taekwondo champion Japanese wrestlers Minoru Suzuki and Osami Shibaya, as well as capoeira specialist Marcelo Pereira, who played the role of Eddie. By the way, as planned, the character of Eddie was first conceived by a woman.

1997 in the gaming industry

First of all, a version for arcade machines was developed, and only then the game was ported to the PlayStation, from which the graphics and sound suffered a little.

However, this did not stop Tekken 3 from gaining universal love, having received almost 100 out of 100 points from most gaming publications.

1997 in the gaming industry

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

Three years after the release of Castlevania: Bloodlines, Konami released Symphony of the Night, which was supposed to completely change the perception of the series in the minds of the players.

To do this, the developers decided to add RPG elements and focus on map exploration. They also removed one-hit kills, past-inspired ladders, and the legendary whip. In addition, Symphony of the Night appeared in a completely different visual style compared to past titles.

1997 in the gaming industry

By adding an RPG element, Konami sought to reduce the complexity of the game, thereby increasing its audience.

“A lot more people played Symphony of the Night. Some even stated that the new part was «too easy». In any case, we were very happy to add a new class of players to our audience and get rid of the “hardcore game” label,” said the director, writer and programmer of the game, Koji Igarashi.

“With the help of RPG elements, we also increased the time of the game. I thought that players of Symphony of the Night would much more enjoy gradually gaining experience and coping with the challenges that the game offers, ”added Igarashi.

1997 in the gaming industry

Initially, the developers wanted to continue the plot of the very first part and use the same setting, but later the story moved four years after the events of Rondo of Blood.

Igarashi wanted to fit much more of the story into the game, but was forced to cut the script substantially under the pressure of the genre’s limits. However, he crafted the dialogue in such a way that players constantly feel the impact of the voluminous backstory on the plot.

1997 in the gaming industry

Upon release, the game received rave reviews from critics and proved that despite the industry’s transition to 3D, players’ love for 2D games has not disappeared.

Comparing Symphony of the Night to another successful 2D platformer, Super Metroid, has led to the emergence of a new genre called «Metroidvania», offering players the opportunity to explore and progress through an area as the story and character progress.

1997 in the gaming industry

Star Fox 64

The developers immediately decided to make Star Fox 64 a remake of the original part. They wanted to take advantage of fresh technology to offer players a new design first, rather than a new story.

Even before the release of Star Fox 64, Star Fox 2 for the SNES was completed, which was eventually cancelled. Many of the title’s ideas eventually migrated to the part for the Nintendo 64. Star Fox 2 was released in 2017 as part of the release of the Super NES Classic Edition.

1997 in the gaming industry

With the original game, they wanted to test the capabilities of the SNES, but people were not happy with the graphics.

“Probably about 30% came from SF2. We borrowed from the second part «all-range mode», «multi-player mode», and the idea with the Star Wolf team,» said game designer Shigeru Miyamoto.

According to Miyamoto, the developers were excited to experiment with the graphics and real-time dialogue. For the players, in principle, the surprise was the fact that the main character of the game, Fox McCloud, spoke, although the dialogues in the game were minimized.

1997 in the gaming industry

The developers had been thinking about multiplayer since the development of Star Fox 2, and when it became clear that the N64 would support up to four players, everything fell into place.

Although Star Fox 64 received high ratings, it was criticized for not being able to jump as high as Super Mario 64 from the previous installment.

“I think we used the capabilities of the console better than when creating Super Mario 64. I wanted to get players to think strategically when playing Star Fox 64, and I think I succeeded,” summed up Miyamoto.

1997 in the gaming industry

Final Fantasy Tactics

Ever since the early 1990s, the developers of the core Final Fantasy series have wondered if the beloved line could be brought to the strategy field. The first attempts to advance in this direction date back to 93.

When it was decided to try, the developers were not going to create another traditional military simulator, pushing several troops together. Instead, they conceived the idea of ​​replacing the armies with characters that the player would develop in the spirit of the FF series.

1997 in the gaming industry

“We wanted to come up with a tactical strategy where the routine mechanics would not cause the player to yawn and eventually put the gamepad aside. It was necessary to develop a game that would make you stick to the TV screen,” said game designer Hiroyuki Ito.

1997 in the gaming industry

The developers at Squaresoft understood that SRPGs were perceived as a niche genre and wanted to do something different. In fact, Tactics was the ideological continuation of the strategy Behamaut Lagoon, which Square released a year earlier. However, the developers have provided the game with a lot of elements of the FF universe. As a result, Tactics has always been perceived as a full-fledged spin-off of the series, and some characters later appeared in subsequent franchise titles.

1997 in the gaming industry

Golden Eye 007

GoldenEye 007 was supposed to be another 2D platform game developed in support of the James Bond movie GoldenEye. However, the developers from Rare decided to offer Nintendo to turn the title into a 3D shooter for the then-unreleased Nintendo 64.

Chris Kohler, editor of Kotaku: “Nintendo very quickly realized that they had made a mistake in choosing cartridges over CDs for the Nintendo 64, because Sony’s PlayStation threatened to outshine it. So the company decided to rectify the situation by releasing as many games as possible for its console.”

1997 in the gaming industry

Nintendo needed to release a game aimed at a western audience, and Rare was ready to help.

The developers were given access to the entire James Bond universe, and they even visited the set of GoldenEye, where they took hundreds of shots as references, not to mention maps of the set for level design.

1997 in the gaming industry

Rare’s biggest challenge was developing a 3D game for a yet-to-be-existing platform. The team, which did not even have ten people, spent more than one 100-hour week in the office, trying to live up to the expectations placed on them.

Interestingly, the original key part of Golden Eye, namely multiplayer, was not supposed to be part of the game. There was simply no time to develop it, because the game was supposed to be released simultaneously with the console and the film.

1997 in the gaming industry

However, when Rare found out that the N64 would have four gamepad ports, the studio decided to try making multiplayer without consulting Nintendo first.

“Now multiplayer is a mandatory component of any successful shooter, but for a very long time it was something far away for developers. The idea of ​​the N64 with four controllers gave us hope, but if we didn’t have time to spare, we would have dropped the multiplayer idea,» recalls Kohler.

Nintendo, having doubts about the success of the game, produced only one or two million cartridges. However, no one expected that in the end this number would have to be quadrupled, and that the game would take first place in all five categories at that year’s E3.

1997 in the gaming industry

Star Wars Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II

Dark Forces 2 was the first shooter in the Jedi Knight lineup to introduce multiplayer, allowing players to fight each other like real Jedi — using force and laser swords.

As in the previous part, the actions and decisions of the hero during the game incline him either to the dark or to the light side, which determines which ending the player will receive.

1997 in the gaming industry

Between levels, the story was told through cut-scenes with live actors. All filming took two weeks, and then the actors voiced the entire game in just a few sessions.

“For me, as an actor, shooting in Dark Forces 2 was a real challenge. All the scenes were filmed against a blue screen, and in most cases I spoke with imaginary objects that were then added on the computer, ”recalls actor Jason Court, who played the role of the main character Kyle Katarn.

1997 in the gaming industry

Despite being able to play the game in third person, Dark Forces 2 has been hailed as one of the best first-person shooters since its release and has been compared to giants such as Doom.

Although almost every aspect of the game, with the possible exception of the soundtrack, received little criticism, Dark Forces 2 was most often rated 9/10 and named game of the year.

Already in January, LucasArts added the Mysteries of the Sith pack to the game, including 15 new maps for multiplayer and some technical upgrades.

1997 in the gaming industry

Grand Touring

The development of the very first part of the Gran Turismo racing simulators began five years before the release of the game, namely in 1992.

The creator of the series, Kazunori Yamauchi, is an amateur racing enthusiast who has competed in competitions such as the 24 Hours of Nürburgring, not to mention his personal fleet of cars like the Ford GT.

1997 in the gaming industry

Yamauchi started his career at Sony, took part in the creation of the PlayStation. He also headed the studio Polys Entertainment, which was sounding out a new and ambitious racing project. Their first game was the Motor Toon Grand Prix.

In the early 1990s, Yamauchi had a burning desire to create a realistic driving simulator and began to slowly but surely realize this goal based on the then unreleased 32-bit PlayStation.

1997 in the gaming industry

“I set clear goals when creating Gran Turismo,” said Yamauchi. — I wanted to create a driving simulator with real cars. I didn’t know if it was possible. Gran Turismo was one of the first 3D racing games with realistic physics.»

1997 in the gaming industry

Gran Turismo immediately turned into a real hit. The game impressed the audience with realistic driving, an excellent soundtrack, exciting challenges and a fleet of 140 cars. To celebrate, Yamauchi immediately founded a new studio, Polyphony Digital, and began developing a sequel.

The Gran Turismo series remains the most successful PlayStation exclusive line to date, with over 80 million copies sold.

1997 in the gaming industry

***

In addition to the above titles, we can also note such releases as Fallout and The Curse of the Monkey Island, which also received extremely high marks. And after 1997, the year will come, which is considered one of the most fruitful in the history of the gaming industry.

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