In this day and age of having my childhood repackaged and re-sold to me, some games are being left behind. I currently have Devil May Cry HD Collection sitting in my Xbox 360, with the Metal Gear Solid HD Collection right next to it. My hard drive is home to Sonic 1, Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic Adventure, Guardian Heroes, Comix Zone, Gunstar Heroes and Phantasy Star 2. I’m anxiously waiting for Zone of the Enders HD Collection to arrive in time for my birthday this year. Some of my favorite games from this generation were also my favorite games of the last generation!
There are some titles slowly being lost to the mists of time. I’m not counting pre-NES games which have had groups actively devoted to their memories for a while now; instead, there is a middle generation from the NES through the PS1 that is home to an amazing assortment of games that tend to be left off of “Greatest of All Time” lists. That is a travesty.
Starting off what will hopefully become a continuing series of essays, I want to talk to you about Jungle Strike. The middle child between 1992’s Desert Strike and 1994’s Urban Strike (yes kids, franchises were annualized even back then), Jungle Strike is one of my favorite games of the era. Jungle Strike again found you controlling a helicopter, a Comanche this time, as you flew around the map taking advantage of what meager supplies you could find to accomplish the mission. The first stage involved thwarting a terrorist attack on Washington D.C. complete with fully destructible monuments and it did not let up from there.
Unlike Desert Strike, Jungle Strike allowed you to control other vehicles which ranged from awesome (the Stealth Bomber utilized in the night mission) to well, crap (the motorcycle). Different vehicles had widely different abilities and so did your co-pilots, whom influenced your helicopter’s speed, accuracy and winching ability. Ah the winch, the one gameplay mechanic that changed power ups worked and made everything feel much more real. Instead of simply collecting ammo, fuel or hostages you had to hover over them and wait for your winch to pick them up. The added tension this created by forcing you to stay in one place while being shot at from all sides makes the winch a brilliant piece of gaming design.
Some people might say the ever decreasing fuel gauge and rock hard difficulty of Jungle Strike, which was to me, the hardest of the three Strike titles, is poor design. I for one, think it is great that the game does not hold your hand through countless tutorials as most games of this generation do. Now the other major criticism leveled against the Strike franchise is the cut-scenes. These are universally horrible across all three games but have the same sort of kitsch appeal as the cut-scenes from a Command and Conquer title.
While Jungle Strike added more missions, more vehicles and more variety on top of Desert Strike’s measly four stages, Urban Strike fell into the sequel trap by including on foot segments. If you ever find yourself in charge of a vehicle based franchise, do not add sections that take you out of the vehicle and on foot. This was annoying back when it was done in Blaster Master, it was annoying in Urban Strike, and it was annoying in the latter Driver titles [Who could forget Star Fox].
Most of the team that worked on the Strike series wound up working at Pandemic Games and it was there that they created Mercenaries: Playground of Destruction, Mercenaries 2 and one of my recent favorites of the HD generation, The Saboteur. Those guys and gals originally from High Score Productions really know their way around sandbox games in which things blow up real, real good. There you have it, Jungle Strike, best of the Strike series and a forgotten classic. Feel free to post in the comments what you consider a lost classic or even how you feel about paying again for the same games from your children.