Why it's on the list: Rayman 2 is one of my favourite games of all time, and I've had a copy of the PS1 version lying around for quite some time (having snapped it up on one of my post-18 eBay sprees) - one of the main reasons I had it in the first place was for the bonus sample of Rayman 2's original 2D prototype, before they made the shift to 3D.
How I played it: My housemate's PS2
When I played it: June - July 2018
How far I got:
- Finished the main game
- Tried the bonus prototype
- 732 / 800 Lums
- 65 / 80 Cages
What I thought:
The many disparate versions of Rayman 2 are strange beasts, and strangest of all is the port for the original PlayStation. It wasn't released until after the other versions - Dreamcast, PC, N64 - and yet, thanks to the reduced power of the PS1, it's a marked downgrade in several ways. It looks significantly worse - framerate, resolution and polygon count all take big hits, even compared to the N64 version. And old 3D game cameras... sigh. This is a problem by no means exclusive to this version, or even to this game, but one enhanced by the other graphical problems. Not to stop there, portions of the game are completely cut, and some levels rearranged to accommodate - presumably so the whole thing would fit on a PS1 CD.
And yet, for some reason, it's actually more cinematic in some places - as though the developers felt the need to make up for the things they stripped back. For example, the opening cutscene is completely redone, following a set of Pirate warships as they patrol the wasteland. There are also more short cutscenes after you flip a switch and so on.
Also, a new enemy appears, exclusive to this version - the Antitoon from Rayman 1. The final boss battle is completely reworked (and only more frustrating for it). There's new writing - plot points which were previously unexplained are elaborated on, such as the bosses' reasons for attacking you.
Perhaps most bizarrely, the game has complete English voice acting, where previous versions used a charming gibberish for the character voices. This should be an improvement, but it isn't. The gibberish languages the original versions used went a long way toward the game's personality. Each character had what sounded like their own specific made-up language. Here, these are replaced with here is sub-par, kind of lame in the same way certain kids' cartoons are. Razorbeard's ominous electronic grumble is replaced by an awful over-the-top villain's voice, and Rayman's voice sounds oddly dopey.
This is strange - some of the voice cast (David Gasman, Douglas Rand, Ken Starcevic) reappear in Rayman 3, which actually has quite good voice acting. I can only put this down to poor direction. ALSO: Everyone pronounces 'Rayman' as though it's a last name, like Bergman or something, with no stress on the second syllable. This is clearly incorrect, and I will not abide it.
The other aspects of the sound design are great, but only insofar as they were in other versions. The Rayman 2 soundtrack is still amazing, but for some reason it chops and changes in weird places. Sound effects, otherwise perfect, occasionally glitch and loop.
Playing this, I was reminded just how awesome the movement feels in this game. Rayman's jumps and rolls are a joy to control. The feel of this is hindered somewhat by the fewer frames of animation, and made me wish I was playing a better version.
One fascinating addition, mentioned at the top, is the inclusion of a bonus level from the original prototype for the cancelled 2D Rayman 2, which only ever saw the light of day here. It plays exactly like original Rayman, with some interesting added mechanics - like being able to transfer between the background and foreground layers, something which later appeared in Donkey Kong Country Returns, of all places. It's hard in the same way as the original game, and I didn't finish it, but it's an interesting insight into the series' history.
Rayman 2 has always felt like a game that had much grander ambitions, with compromise forcing it into the shape that it became. The final game - a classic - is no lesser for it; except, that is, for this painfully limited version, where those compromises become all too obvious.
(For more on Rayman 2's weird and fascinating history, head here.)