In January, the long-awaited remake of Resident Evil 2 is finally coming out, which, apparently, is going to return the series to its trademark measured pace and feel of horror, rather than action-adventure.
The original game was released back in 1998, and was a great addition to the genre, which fans of the series are still replaying. However, Resident Evil 2 was far from the only game that offered the industry something interesting and original that year. Below are the titles that in 1998 collected the most recognition and Game of the Year awards from various gaming publications.
Dance Dance Revolution (Arcade, PS)
In 1998, Konami shocked the industry by releasing the musical rhythm game Dance Dance Revolution as an arcade machine. The player only needed to step on the right arrows to keep the rhythm of the song, but as it turned out, this simple gameplay became a real phenomenon, addicted to a huge number of people.
Despite excellent sales in Japan, the game became a real industry hit when it moved to the PlayStation in 1999. The console version included five new tracks and included an arrow dance platform.
Grim Fandango (Windows, Linux, OS X, PS4, PS Vita, Android, iOS)
In an attempt to revolutionize the adventure genre, game designer Tim Schafer worked with LucasArts to create the first quest to use 3D models instead of 2D sprites. For this, a special GrimE engine was created, and the experiment’s budget grew to three million dollars.
In the story, Manny Calavero works off his sins as a travel agent in the eighth Underworld and looks forward to finally getting into the last world number 9.
In Grim Fandango, players experienced a mix of film noir elements with Mexican folklore and afterlife stories. The developers were deconstructing the Mexican Day of the Dead holiday, and Tim Schafer was studying anthropology in college, along with reading the writings of Raymond Chandler and watching films by Humphrey Bogart.
“I wish I could say that we had a brilliant plan to put it all together, but the game was really about what we were passionate about when development started,” Shafer says.
Grim Fandango has received numerous awards, and although Schafer said it sold satisfactorily, it failed to restore the genre to its former commercial appeal in the eyes of the producers.
“At that time, it was enough for a publisher to compare our audience with the audience of the next shooter to understand which title would replenish their bank account,” Shafer added.
Grim Fandango was Schafer’s last game under LucasArts. In 2000, he founded his studio Double Fine Productions, which in 2015 developed a remaster of Grim Fandango, and in 2019 will please the long-awaited Psychonauts 2.
Half-Life (Windows, PS2, OS X, Linux)
Valve originally planned to debut in the gaming industry with not one, but two games. Prospero was supposed to offer the player a world to explore and an interesting story, while Quiver promised adrenaline-filled action in the spirit of id Software titles. At some point, the developers came up with the idea to combine the two ideas, taking the most interesting from them. The gaming community is still grateful to them for this decision, which is evident from the unquenchable faith in Half-Life 3, although the second part was released almost fifteen years ago.
According to Gabe Newell, the first Half-Life was Valve’s response to the industry’s desire to simplify the first-person shooter genre. It seemed to Valve developers that instead of trying something new, their colleagues were engaged in reducing the diversity of the genre to a minimum.
After the release, Half-Life was recognized as the best shooter since Doom, and later, the legendary esports monster Counter-Strike was developed on its basis.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (Nintendo 64, GameCube, iQue Player)
It is worth noting that the stories about Link and Zelda became Nintendo’s calling card long before the release of Ocarina of Time, which was already the fourth game in the series. However, this particular title is considered not only one of the best creations of Nintendo, but also one of the best games in the history of the industry in general.
No doubt this reaction was facilitated by the new Nintendo 64 platform, which allowed the series to go into 3D. The developers took a break of five years, but after receiving a new part, the players were not disappointed — in the new look, The Legend of Zelda did not lose its former charm, but, on the contrary, added it due to the exciting gameplay and this time atmospheric three-dimensional world.
Ocarina of Time was a real revolution, giving the line a second life, not to mention the sales, which overtook all Hollywood films when it was released in 1998.
Metal Gear Solid (PS, Windows)
It’s not for nothing that Hideo Kojima has been waiting for the release of the first PlayStation to restart his Metal Gear series, presenting Snake and company in full 3D. Before the announcement of the console, he experimented with 3DO, but as soon as Kojima received the PS prototype, the game designer realized that he had found a new home for his offspring.
“I created a level and some enemies from polygons, and after seeing how they move, I realized that I finally got what I needed. With the help of new technologies, I could create something extraordinary,” said Kojima.
When creating MGS, Kojima was guided by the rule: «If you cannot make the player believe in your world, there is no point in creating it.» According to him, if you do not have to lure the player with tricks, then the game is a success. In addition to the impressive appearance, MGS pleased with a variety of gameplay, not to mention Kojim’s signature storytelling, reflecting all his love for cinema.
The game has a place for elements of sci-fi and cyberpunk, which Kojima used to introduce the players to the world of the future.
“From childhood, I wondered how the world would change in the next 10-20 years. Such thoughts are both inspiring and terrifying.”
Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn)
Panzer Dragoon Saga is remembered primarily for its design, which helped the game win not only a large number of awards, but also the love of the whole world, which, however, did not affect the sales of the title.
Sega set a difficult task for the developers from the Team Andromeda studio — it was necessary to get away from the genre of rail shooters familiar to the Panzer Dragoon line and develop the third part of the series in a completely different genre. The studio was given creative freedom, which was still limited by the requirement to match classic JRPG elements.
As a result, the developers managed to do this and offer players an exciting adventure in which the soldier Age fights the forces of evil, flying around the world on his faithful dragon that shoots a laser from his mouth.
“It was an incredibly complex project,” said game producer Yukio Futatsugi. “A lot of time has passed, so now I remember the development with warmth, but in fact it turned out to be a real test for the whole team.”
As for poor sales, they were caused by the fact that the game’s platform was the Sega Saturn, which at the time of the game’s release was no longer sold in America. In view of the limited edition of Panzer Dragoon Saga, the game is one of the tidbits of collectors.
Resident Evil 2 (PS, Windows, Nintendo 64, Dreamcast, GameCube, Game.com)
Having successfully debuted with its story about a group of STARS agents who found themselves in a mansion infested with zombies, two years later Capcom upped the ante by filling the whole city with the dead in Resident Evil 2.
Again, the game introduced two game companies, for police officer Leon and sister Chris from the previous part of Claire, who made their way through Racoon City at the same time. True, this time the developers introduced the so-called «zapping system». The concept of the system was that when playing the game a second time as another character, the player would encounter the consequences of the choice in certain situations on the first playthrough.
When designing the look of the city, the developers looked to the look of Kyoto, Osaka, and Nagoya, where there are many Western-style buildings. For the second part, a professional screenwriter, Noboru Sugimura, was hired, who was simply necessary to take the plot to another level. Director George Romero, who is responsible for the popularization of zombies in modern pop culture, was invited to shoot a commercial for Resident Evil 2.
Soulcalibur (Arcade, Dreamcast, iOS, Xbox 360, Android)
During the development of Soulcalibur, Project Soul exchanged ideas with the Tekken 3 team at Namco, who published both fighting games.
The main difference between Soulcalibur and other representatives of the genre of that time was the presence of melee weapons in the game and the ability to move in eight directions during the battle.
The battle took place inside a certain territory, leaving which the player lost the round. Thus, the tactical movement of the character has become no less important than the possession of various combos. The developers had to tinker a lot with the balance of the game, given that each character owns different types of weapons and their own fighting style.
Soulcalibur was named the best fighting game of the year, and the Dreamcast version became one of the best-selling games on the platform.
StarCraft (Windows, Classic Mac OS, Nintendo 64)
StarCraft is the most financially successful game on today’s list, although at the time of release, Blizzard did not expect such a result, given the initial reactions to the game’s announcement.
After the release of Warcraft 2, Blizzard wanted to work on a different topic and undertook to develop a new tactical strategy on the same engine. The players immediately decided that they were waiting for a game about “orcs in space”, but after the release they fell in love with StarCraft so much that it immediately became one of the strongest esports titles.
“Originally, we only got into StarCraft because our bosses wanted us to be flooded with new titles, not because we were crazy about the idea,” said former R&D manager Patrick Wyeth.
As development progressed, the mood of the team improved and the development was decided to be extended, and StarCraft, instead of an intermediate project, turned into a strong sci-fi title about the clash of zerg, protoss and terrans.
Thief: The Dark Project (Windows)
It’s not clear how Looking Glass Studios managed to create a «game of the year» and one of the gems of the stealth genre, given how many problems accompanied development.
The game was the first project that Ken Levin, who later gained recognition for the Bioshock series, had a chance to work on. He later left development, as did many other key developers, among whom was Warren Spector, known for the Deus Ex line.
The Dark Project changed several concepts before becoming a story about the thief Garrett with gameplay revolving around stealth. Other ideas included a Cold War zombie setting in the USSR codenamed «Better Red Than Undead» and a story about King Arthur and the deranged wizard Merlin. As a result, studio founder Paul Newrat proposed the idea of making the main character a thief, and further development went much easier.
Half of the games on today’s list started series that were already twenty years old a year ago. Thief was replenished with a new part in 2014, Half-Life threatens to move to VR, and StarCraft and Dance Dance Revolution have been quite actively delighting players with new releases in recent years. Along with 1997 and 2001, 1998 was one of the most prolific periods in the gaming industry, eventually inspiring generations of gamers and developers.