Friday, September 9, 2016

Ape Escape

Release Date: May 31, 1999
Played on: Vita

I started making real $5.15 an hour sort of money right at the end of the PS1's life and because of that, I made some questionable purchases with my newfound paychecks such as the four player dongle for the PS1.

This also meant that anytime OPM told me there was a must have game, I knew I must, and I would buy it.

One of those games was this game I had heard nothing about called Ape Escape. It was a revolutionary game that required you had a dual shock controller because all of the weapons were controlled by the sticks.

Until Ape Escape, I pretty regularly stuck with the d-pad for all control as I was used to it. (To this day, I can't play the classic Resident Evils or Tomb Raiders on the analog sticks)

Ape Escape was the answer to my Metal Gear Solid addiction. I had already ran through MGS
roughly a dozen times. I had memorized guard paths, figured out how to cheat bosses, and even remembered all the codecs (140.15 will get you Meryl) by heart.

Ape Escape was a game that promised diverse personalities for each Ape. Maps that you couldn't clear out until later in the game when you had more gadgets. Solid graphics, diverse environments, a story wacky enough for a kid, but a game challenging enough for an adult.

I remember returning home from Babbages with Ape Escape, tearing the plastic off, and sitting on the edge of my bed for the next 4 hours, mesmerized by the incredible level design and thought put into every detail.

I spent probably too much time in the Dinosaur themed Lost Land, the game's first world. I didn't want to proceed until I caught every ape, but I couldn't figure out what to do.

I played through the Mysterious Age and Oceana, realizing that the gadgets I unlocked in the future missions would help me complete the previous ones. It became a game of going as far as I could and when I was stuck, I'd go back to previous levels to get a few wins.

And then there were mini-games throughout that were actually fun and deserving of a good mini-game collection. Things like Ski Kids Racing where you raced down a hill on skis or Specter Boxing which was actually a good boxing game that would've been right at home on the Wii, and then every now and then you would race your rival Jake through an obstacle course, which were also great.

I never completed the game 100%. Luckily OPM came out with a strategy guide that helped propel me from the 65% I was stuck at up to 95%, but I never managed to clear out that last 5%. The game came out late enough in the PS1's life cycle that the PS2 took it's spot hooked up to my TV and soon Ape Escape became another museum item on my shelf until I made the huge mistake of selling my entire game collection to pay rent in college.

Up and down Ape Escape is a great game. Easily one of the top 10 of the PS1. I know that might seem extreme considering the PS1 contains Resident Evil 2, Final Fantasy VII, Tomb Raider 2, Metal Gear Solid, Crash Bandicoot, Tekken, Symphony of the Night, and Chrono Cross, but I really believe Ape Escape when the glasses of nostalgia are removed is a better game pound for pound than many of those.

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