Everyone say hi to Tom, our new Sunday writer! As you might imagine he’s an enthusiastic gamer and would like to share his thoughts and musings on TVGB. Today he looks at Rayman and his spectacular return to form in Rayman Origins!
How many of you remember the glory days of the limbless legend of gaming that is Rayman? When the original Rayman was released on the Playstation in 1995, the gaming world was met with yet another character that could potentially rise to tackle the icons that were Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog. Colourful worlds, genius level design and wondrous characters to litter the engaging world made for a fantastic debut game by Ubisoft and the game went on to become the best selling game in the United Kingdom with over 5 million copies sold. That means it shut out legends such as Tomb Raider and Gran Turismo on the Playstation. Rayman was king.
It doesn’t end there. As Mario made the triumphant leap into 3D with Super Mario 64, a hurdle where some will argue Sonic tripped up, Rayman too transcended with grace with the release of Rayman 2: The Great Escape, this time crossing platforms to release on the Nintendo 64 as well. Improving on the original with a compelling story and beautiful 3D graphics, Rayman had cemented his position in 3D gaming. Like Super Mario 64, Rayman 2 finds itself floating among some of the greatest games of all time in the eyes of critics and gamers alike. The success was imitated by Rayman 3: Hoodlum Havoc which, although a worthy sequel, is perhaps a little less praised than the first two. Nonetheless, the Rayman trilogy was revered as being three fantastic games.
However, something happened. Something that shouldn’t have happened but it did. After the phenomenal success of the three games and the lauded acclaim of their platform gaming experience, Ubisoft did away with it. You know what I’m talking about. Alongside the release of Nintendo’s hotly anticipated Nintendo Wii, Ubisoft released Rayman: Raving Rabbids. I speak the name with contempt. Not only did this do nothing but confirm the Wii’s main stance as being a casual, party console but it also demoted a once stellar series to nothing but a living room, flail around party game. As more and more Rabbids games were released, I noticed a pattern beginning to form. As more Rabbids party games were shelled out on the Wii and other systems, Rayman himself began to disappear.
By about the fourth Raving Rabbids game, the titles began to drop Rayman altogether and I wondered if perhaps Ubisoft were deciding to just up and let him go. Retire the hero once and for all, maybe? I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t want this. I want to see Rayman as he was, back in the old days,” and yet, things looked bleak. After all, we’d seen this happen before. Spyro the Dragon and Crash Bandicoot, two other Playstation big hitters had vanished off the radar. Crash was never the same after the loss of developer Naughty Dog and Spyro, well…would someone mind telling me what that…thing that is supposed to be the titular character of Spyro: Skylanders is? Alas, I digress. Rayman was in dire straits. Something had to happen or we would be saying farewell to another childhood gaming hero, this time lost amongst a tirade of furry, white, frankly insane rabbits. He really needed a hero to save him now, don’t you think?
Rayman Origins to the rescue!
Announced at the end of Ubisoft’s 2010 E3 presentation as a downloadable, episodic title, Rayman Origins did a lot of things right. Not only did it return fan favourites such as Globox, Betilla the Fairy, The Magician and the evil Mr Dark to the scene but some of these were characters from the original Rayman! If the nostalgia didn’t win you over then when Ubisoft revealed it would be released as a full retail game on all platforms that should have. Fans of the trilogy of Rayman games now had a fourth game to call their own. Doing away with party mini-game collections and placing the player in the Glade of Dreams, an artistically realised world with stunning levels and fantastic music was only the beginning.
The gameplay was incredible and has been met with universal acclaim across review boards, something that hasn’t been seen on a game bearing the Rayman title for a long while. The graphics, whimsical and colourful are some of the prettiest to look at I’ve seen and make a sure change from the dull and murky realism offered by a lot of games today. The gameplay actually returned you to saving electoons, little creatures of the world, from cages throughout the many levels, which for those of you who don’t know, was the primary objective of the first Rayman game.
This is why I feel Rayman Origins is one of the best games of the generation. It had to be done. It saved Rayman from disappearance and now Ubisoft have a clean slate to work with. I believe that if they continue on this formula, Rayman can thrive and perhaps even return his once diminished status to its former glory. The game is proving extremely popular with both reviewers and gamers. However, there remains a problem, underlying the success and elated feelings that come with the rebirth of this series. Players who were not around when Rayman was at its high are unlikely to be as swayed as a former fan of the series. In an age of first person shooter dominance, where even a fifteen year old is playing an eighteen year old game, what will Rayman Origins appear as to them?
Platformers are a dying breed. Mario holds on and performs every time but as mentioned before, other popular characters are gone. Rayman Origins, for everything it is, an amazing 2D side-scroller that should be revered and cherished, perhaps won’t be, at least not in the eyes of the masses. Yet, as a Rayman fan through and through, Rayman Origins has gone above and beyond what I was actually expecting from the game. It deserves all of the praise it gets and just might incite Ubisoft to see fit to bringing Rayman back to the masses and hopefully show a new generation of younger gamers what they have missed.