As I have no doubt stated before in this series of updates, good licensed games are a rarity. But then you have the gems, like Capcom's Disney games, among a myriad of other companies. One of those others was JVC, the Japanese company that invented the VHS recorder. (Do I ever owe them a great debt!) What business does a electronics company have fiddling with video games? Well, JVC published a little licensed NES game in 1991 that was developed by Beam Sofware. This lovely little licensed lark was based on Star Wars (specifically Episode IV) and.. is alright I guess. I remember playing it at a friend's years ago and thinking it was okay.
The interesting thing is what came from that simple action game for the NES. A remake was published by JVC just a year later, entitled "Super Star Wars". This one is remembered a bit more favorably than the older game, but is also a bit on the steep side of difficulty. Developed Sculptered Software would go on to create more Star Wars games based on the other two movies, and both added new elements and other playable characters while still being tough as nails. This style of movie-based gameplay was a hit, and not long after Super Return Of The Jedi came out, a game based on Lucasfilm's other hit movie trilogy came out. It too was spectacular, so get your fedoras out and let's talk about Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures.
Developed by Factor 5, who would go on to create some more very good Lucasfilm games, both from Star Wars and Indiana Jones, Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures is very very reminiscent of the Super Star Wars series. The overall structure of the game is relatively the same; action platform your way across an exotic locale inspired by a film, and occasionally engage in a stylized Mode 7 sequence based on an action-packed scene from a film. Why do I say "a film"? Unlike the Super Star Wars games, which split three movies into three games, Indiana Jones' Greatest Adventures condenses the original Indiana Jones trilogy down into the entire game.
The basic outline of the game is clearly inspired from the Super Star Wars games, but the gameplay is radically different. Whereas Star Wars had you running and gunning with a blaster rifle, Indy runs around using his trusty whip. This immediately draws comparison to that OTHER action platform game where you control a dude with a whip, but don't worry because it's done rather well here. The whip does have an annoying hitbox of sorts, however; only the "crack" of it will actually damage things. It takes getting used to.
The whip isn't the only method of attack good old Harrison Ford has, though it is the best method he's got. Indy can use his fists in a desperate pinch, and there is also a gun powerup to be had in certain stages; good for dispatching things that are out of range of your whip, but somehow it deals less damage than a whip smack. In a really bad situation, you can throw a screen-clearing grenade, but these are in limited supply.. though not limited enough for you to need to hoard them or anything.
Being a game based on not just one movie, but three movies, it's surprising that most of the key locales are still involved. From Raiders to Temple of Doom to the Last Crusade, just about all of it is here. A few big action moments from the movies are missing, but it's honestly not that big of a deal. Cutscenes occur between most stages, featuring digitized stills from the films as text scrolls. It's effective enough and conveys an abridged version of the movie plots.
This game loves Mode 7. It loves Mode 7 more than a first-generation SNES game at times. Nearly every "big" scene is conveyed via a Mode 7 stage, from the infamous boulder chase in Raiders to the mine cart chase in Temple Of Doom. These stages are a low point of the game, as they're just tough for the wrong reasons. Take the boulder, for example. It's very big and pretty and it rotates.. but it takes up half of the screen, forcing you to run from it as spikes and things try to knock you back into it. You're basically running at the edge of the screen, which requires either perfect memory of the traps or the reaction time of a saint. The other Mode 7 stages suffer from their own various downfalls, like shoddy hit detection and almost cheap insta-kills.
The main game itself can be fairly tricky too, but it's nowhere near as tricky as the Star Wars games.
All in all, this is a damned fine action/platformer and one of the best Indiana Jones games out there. If you're a fan of that other game in which a hero whips things to death and don't mind a little challenge (that can be a bit unpolished at times), this one is well worth checking out. In the meantime, I'm going to replay it and then watch my VHS tapes of the movies... wait a minute JVC YOU CLEVER BASTARDS