the early to mid '90s, Full Motion Video (FMV) was
all the rage. Most CD-ROM-based games at the time
incorporated FMV in some way, and many games consisted
of it entirely. In fact, consoles like Genesis/Sega
CD, 3DO, and CD-i featured a host of 'interactive
movie' type "games," in which live-action footage
would play and give players limited control over the
action. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I enjoyed
this type of interactive experience.
Whether it was shoot-'em-up action in the Wild West
(Mad Dog McCree), cinematic martial-arts
fighting (Supreme Warrior), or late-night
voyeurism in a vampire-ridden cabin (Night Trap),
I could not get enough FMV in my gaming diet. And
thanks to companies such as Digital Pictures and American
Laser Games, whose games were entirely FMV based,
I got a steady supply of it. Surprisingly, even famed
developers/publishers Capcom Entertainment and Electronic
Arts got into the act, releasing interactive movies
Fox Hunt and Psychic Detective,
respectively, for the Sony PlayStation.
A rogue cowboy from Mad Dog McCree
While most gamers loathed these types of games, I
saw them as harmless (and mindless) entertainment,
much like watching a B-movie. It's sad, but I played
most of the American FMV-based games released throughout
the years. Why? Because I really liked the visual
realism FMV afforded, even though interactivity was,
of course, limited. In addition, playing games that
featured small-time celebs -- like Corey Haim and
Deborah Harry, both of whom starred in Digital Pictures'
Double Switch -- was neat and a refreshing
change from the unrealistic, blotchy sprite-based
graphics of the time.
How did my vile FMV obsession begin? Well, it was
all thanks to a little arcade game called Dragon's
Lair, released in 1983 and animated by the
skillful hand of former Disney animator Don Bluth.
Much like an interactive movie, Dragon's Lair
was low on interaction but high on production value;
its artwork and animation were (and still are) stunning,
and the music and sound effects captivating. Since
I was only about five years old when I first played
Dragon's Lair, I was unaware of how
limited its gameplay really was. Therefore, I believed
the many deaths Dirk the Daring's faced at my hands
were the result of my inexperience as a gamer, not
my poor timing.
The bumbling hero of Dragon's Lair
Eventually I mastered Dragon's Lair's
somewhat awkward gameplay and cruised through its
creature-infested, trap-filled castle with authority.
The lesson I ultimately learned from Dragon's
Lair was that low interactivity does not necessarily
mean low enjoyment. Indeed, Dragon's Lair
was one heck of a ride...even if the player did not
have much control of it. This is why I greeted FMV-based
games with open arms in the '90s and sort of miss
them today, a time of polygon-crunching 128-bit gaming.
Ironically, a few of today's games, including Sega's
ambitious Shenmue and Eidos Interactive's
Bloody Sword of the Berserk, contain
Dragon's Lair-like segments that serve to advance
the story line.
Sure, I'm enjoying my Dreamcast and PlayStation 2
-- and, yes, the Metal Gear Solid 2
demo is amazing -- but I'm also enjoying the DVD versions
of Dragon's Lair, Space Ace,
and Hologram Time Traveler. Unfortunately,
my favorite Digital Pictures and American Laser Game
titles have not met the same fate, as they remain
stuck in the CD-ROM age, where pixellated video greatly
plagued the experience. Maybe someday these FMV-based
games will be revived. Until then, I'm searching for
a decently priced Sega CD to relive some good ol'
memories -- but especially to play the resurrected
Bug Blasters and Star Strike
games (thank you, Good Deal Games)!
Good Deal Games did not in anyway pursuade Cliff to
write the kinds words that he did at the ending of
this article - though I must admit that it did help
it get published ;-)
Be sure to visit Cliff
"Funkadelic" O'Neill's homepage!
He has many great articles!