After the success of Super Mario 64, Sony Computer Entertainment likely saw 3D platformers as a growth area. Despite already publishing two major 3D platformers on the original PlayStation – Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon – with the introduction of PlayStation 2, they had a blank slate. Sony went on to publish three 3D platformers in this console generation: Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, and Sly Cooper. The original Jak and Daxter was well-received, though the sequels were troubled, Jak II in particular for attempting to be more edgy and less fun. The Ratchet and Clank series went on to have a cult following, though I can’t say I’ve played it. Finally, the Sly Cooper series I feel is the most overlooked. In The Thievious Raccoonous, I have a distinct memory of riding a vine to go deep into a rain forest, and of an urban boss fight where the boss was always inaccessible. The game featured cel-shaded graphics, which were still trendy then, though not every object in the game has cel-shading. Though there isn’t much variety in gameplay, Sly Cooper and the Thievious Raccoonus has a Rayman 2 quality to it, though looking back on it now, it is rather simple.
I make the Rayman 2 analogy for a reason: you are basically collecting two things in the game. You collect coins, 100 of which grants you a lucky horseshoe, and a second 100 of which gets you a gold horseshoe. These let you endure one or two hits respectively. You also collect “clue bottles,” which are just messages in a bottle. Each level has a set number. Collecting them all enables your hacker friend Bentley (the turtle) to crack a safe code. Opening a safe reveals a page from Sly’s multi-generational family book: The Thievious Raccoonus. Most of the time this means learning a new move. Sly leaves a raccoon card in the safe, exactly the way “the Joker” in Batman leaves a Joker playing card. There is a third item, a key, which simply opens the door at the end of a level.
Every now and again there’s a mini-game. For example, there’s a driving mini-game with Murray the hippo, who is your driver. There’s also a chicken chasing mini-game. Aside from these moments, you are Sly throughout the game, but the frequency of mini-games ramps up near the end. A Splinter Cell influence feels clear, but the first Sly Cooper was released a month prior to Sam Fischer’s epic. You can hide from light in shadows, side-step along a narrow passage and sneak up on foes prior to attack. Failing to do so can result in an alarm sounding, but you can often destroy and silence the alarm by swinging your cane at the unit.
Some part of me wishes I never looked back at the game, because my memories were so fond. It seemed so underappreciated, and those memories I do have are still part of the game, though a lot of what’s in the middle is boring. The game was re-released in full HD as “The Sly Collection” for PS3, which also include the first two sequels. Sure enough, the original Sly looks great in HD, and cel-shading has a way of making a game look good years later (obligatory mention: Jet Set Radio is practically my all-time favorite game). With regard to enemy designs, the game has a little bit of a Rare Software feel to it. The music is fine, but I wouldn’t buy the soundtrack.
Which just about brings to an end my review. The sequels sound fun, and there are three of them, but I’ve never been all that loyal to Sony, which is the best excuse I have for not playing them. Fascinatingly, developer Sucker Punch Production’s first title was Rocket: Robot on Wheels for Nintendo 64, which I remember slipping by my radar. Humorously, the same thing nearly happened with Sly Cooper, but I think I saw it on sale at E.B. Games, and said “Why not?” Ratchet & Clank is the real cult classic, but Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is some sort of double cult classic. Call it childish, but I’d take Sly over Infamous (Sucker Punch’s more realistic series) any day.
May 3rd, 2019 (today) we surpassed last year’s total number of visitors. Thank you everyone!