Full Motion Video was supposed to be the revolutionary genre of the, then, incoming CD-ROM world. I am talking about the 80’s and early 90’s of gaming. A time when Sega fought Nintendo’s iron grip on gaming with innovative ideas, technologies and knew how to take a freaking chance. Maybe had they been so hard to push Sonic back then like they do today, Sega might have come out better. Um, sorry, just a little upset over how Sega has acted since their success with their Genesis console. Anyhow, back to taking chances, one of those shots in the dark was Full Motion Video with the launch of the Sega CD accessory.
The genre was quickly panned as crap by the same critics (gaming magazine “elite”) that were at one point, in the same magazines, touting this as the next remarkable thing for gaming (they had to sell magazines somehow). What is sad though, the truly innovative FMV games got thrown under the rug along with the trash as the whole genre was thrown out the window. Sure, early Full Motion Video games were as interactive and fun as mowing the lawn, but they were a sign of what was to come. Did Pitfall, at launch, give anyone the idea that we would one day be playing Super Mario World? No. It was just too big of a leap for the genre. FMV was no different.
Sure, Night Trap is popular still, well known to an extent, but I must ask – how much of that is due to the media coverage it received and how much of that reverence is due to the quality of the actual game? People still remember Custer’s Revenge, even people that weren’t gamers then, or born in time to “enjoy” that one, know about it. Does that make it a good game?
For every good FMV game there are many that are not worth your time. I have collected the five that I feel pushed the envelope back in the day. These games were also pushed to the wayside as people clamored for Night Trap, or completely ignored the genre because of Night Trap – take your pick, these games were all but ignored. I wonder, what would gaming have become on the PlayStation and Saturn consoles, and later, had these five games been the ones to lead the genre instead of what history shows gamers got?
First up, Supreme Warrior which was available for Sega CD and 3DO. The video is quick clips of action based on your input. This is the style of game that I always thought FMV titles would be like – not the long interludes of Night Trap (which while cool the first time, doesn’t leave much for replay value). Supreme Warrior sees it’s world setup nicely with a lengthy introduction featuring actors in period dress and they seem to understand what they are representing. Production values were quite good on Supreme Warrior which they should be as this was a later release in the life of the Sega CD.
Dracula Unleashed represents another idea that I feel would have simply rocked the CD-ROM FMV world. Horror. It doesn’t take hours to create a scary experience which means there could have been a few paths here. I know, Night Trap was going for horror as well and only came up with campy.
Dracula Unleashed took a story that most gamers, and people in general, are familiar with and expanded on it a bit. Gave the gamer more room to roam, great production values in the settings, and generally the game was challenging beyond having to replay and play again to get your timing down. Instead, you were searching for clues, piecing things together, and trying to solve a larger puzzle. Still my favorite FMV game but the next game is a very close second.
Prize Fighter came with my JVC X-Eye console (a licensed Sega Genesis and Sega CD combined into one unit). At first, I was turned off by the fact that it was black and white. I was wrong as I quickly learned by giving the game a chance. The video clips are similarly done like Supreme Warrior. Quick pieces that let you have more control over the action here. It works great and it gives a sense of controlling the video – something most Full Motion Video games fail at. Just imagine if this premise was revisited on modern hardware – a boxing game using FMV would probably do extremely well.
Sony Imagesoft were on the right track when they released Ground Zero: Texas for the Sega CD. It took the idea of Night Trap – multiple cameras in various areas, action going on at certain points, and failure just around the corner. The difference is, Ground Zero: Texas added in aliens and a shooting mechanism. Sure, it was not as interactive as an on-rails style shooter, but it was more interactive than Night Trap. As technology improved, games like GZT could have been big deals.
Finally, Voyeur was a game available for the CD-i console. It required not only a hefty console purchase to play but also a hard to find FMV adapter. Why that adapter was not built in, or packaged with each console, is beyond me. Anyhow, why is this game on my list for FMV games that pushed the genre? Because of the mature content. While Night Trap flirted with naked people on camera, Voyeur delivered. Not a porn game like we saw on the 3DO later, this was more along the lines of putting the player in the role of an investigator trying to uncover a political scandal. Your goal was to gather evidence.
Voyeur pushed the FMV genre into the mature world, where I think it could have survived quite well if given enough effort by other publishers. I am not talking about porn, but more mature topics. Such as being an investigator collecting evidence or a reporter trying to cover a story, or a detective trying to find the killer by interrogating suspects. Just imagine the missed opportunities here.
Full Motion Video is not perfect, never will be. It doesn’t need to be. All it needs to do is tell a story and if done right, FMV is the best vehicle to do that. It is easily relatable by people – we see FMV all the time in entertainment. Why would gaming be any different? All we need is that breakout title to come along. We need the Space Invaders, the Pong, the Pac-Man, of FMV to come for this genre to break out and grow with the rest of gaming.