Saturday, August 11, 2012

Weekend Flashback #1 - Ratchet and Clank (2002, PS2)

Title: Ratchet and Clank
Original Release Date: November 4, 2002
Platform: Playstation 2
ESRB Rating: T

There's a couple of reasons why I've decided to choose Ratchet and Clank  as the first "Weekend Flashback" installment. First off, it's because this year is the franchise's tenth anniversary. (Oh my god, I'm so old.) Second of all, it's because the Ratchet and Clank Collection is coming out later this year, and it's a re-release of the first three games in the series in pretty high-def. (I've included a link to preorder it at the end of this post.) I'm just not patient enough to wait until then to play R&C again. I'm like Veruca Salt; I want it now.

So, I reached into the handy gaming cabinet and got it.

I have a lot of fond memories of playing this game with Dave when it came out. Parts of it were frustratingly difficult, and others I breezed right through. There were moments that I would eventually give up on and actually have him complete for me because I was sick of spending days stuck on the same planet and watching him progress way ahead of me. To me, this is the perfect game to revisit first because of both its anniversary and because of the memories that it evokes.

And the greatest thing about this game, I think, is that it's aged fairly well. It's definitely cruder than the pretty R&C: Future installments we've grown used to seeing, but it doesn't - by any means - look outdated, old, or poor. Even being played on my PS2, on the family's flat-screen HDTV, the game looks nice. I've seen modern Wii games that look worse than this does.

Though that might just say something about the Wii.

And the gameplay, while sometimes more irritating than I remember it being, also isn't bad. It's mostly being used to tighter gameplay mechanics than the PS2 could really offer ten years ago. The rest of it is just being used to the way the series works now and forgetting how it worked when I was thirteen. It's sometimes tough to get my jumps timed right from platform to platform or over a long distance. That's gameplay mechanics. But the rest of it is me trying to shoot with the R1 button instead of the circle and getting my ass unfortunately handed to me. It's led to a lot of laughing and good-natured swearing between both my father and myself as we tried to play through the game, recalling the places that gave us a hard time ten years ago.

I did happen to notice a couple things now (probably because I'm older) than I did then. The biggest one, for me, was how completely obnoxious Ratchet is. In later games, namely the Future arc, he took more to the battle-weary hero archetype. In R&C, I found him to be selfish and childish, and found myself fairly short-tempered at his attitude - the constant backtalking, his needless overuse of snark - and honestly couldn't wait for him to shut up. After the original R&C, he was much more likable, more "mature" I guess, and it's his current personae that I attribute with today's Ratchet. If he'd stayed the same from this game to the next onee, I can't imagine the series being nearly as successful.

Verdict: Overall, the original Ratchet and Clank, the one that started it all, is still a solid game. It's still fun to play, getting all the hidden golden bolts still drives me crazy, and unlocking all the skill points still keeps me up until ungodly hours of the morning. Some of the controls seem clunky and awkward in retrospect, and moving around in the overworld doesn't seem as tight now as it did then. But it's still a great way to pass a couple of days to revisit the story if you don't have anything better to do and you can stand Ratchet's douchebaggery for more than a few hours at a time.

Notes:  You can pre-order The Ratchet and Clank Collection from

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