Sometimes in entertainment, the best and most creative ideas are the ones you never hear about. The making of a classic is a tricky thing. A lot of circumstances have to come together for creativity and originality to find proper funding and exposure, and even then there’s no guarantee of mainstream success. The forces of business, art, and chance are fickle and as a result some of the best movies, music, books, paintings, and video games are ones we’ll probably never even know existed or at best heard of but never got a chance to get into.
Oh crap, is grandpa Nick gonna tell us another story about the good ol’ days? Yeah, looks like. It’s not like there’s much going on with you next gen folks right now. So for a few weeks, I’m going to remember for us a golden oldie that represented really original thinking in its time and could be devastatingly good if the concepts were applied to present day gaming.
Either that or we could go back to waiting with baited breath to find out about the minute changes being made for the next Assassin’s Creed and Call of Duty games instead. I won’t judge. I know we’re all super excited to get to complaining about the next barely-improved twice-yearly installments of AAA franchises past their primes, but for now let’s go back in time and look at a game that I’d rather be playing. Yo, DJ, bring that beast back!
I know remake has been a bit of a dirty word that inspires thoughts of creative bankruptcy, what with Hollywood feverishly remaking every single film foreign and domestic that holds any sort of international name recognition among genre fans and video games rebooting franchises the same way. But sometimes a remake done right can be a really great thing, especially with video games. Taking an older title with a brilliant premise and bringing it into a new decade with better technology and resources to expand upon its core concepts isn’t a bad idea so long as the devs keep in mind what made the original worth bringing back.
At the top of the pile of games I’d love to see brought into the modern era is an obscure 1993 SNES title called EVO: Search for Eden. The story is the story of life itself on this planet and takes the player through billions of years of prehistory starting with life as a tiny sea creature and carries on to the advent of sentience. You want epic; you’ve got it. This game was a beast back in the day, and it has the capacity to be even more so today.
The game featured side-scrolling action/platforming gameplay with RPG elements. Basically, what you did was travel from area to area and weave your way through the food chain, devouring weaker creatures and avoiding stronger ones. Each meal restores health and gives experience. The cool thing here is that you used accumulated experience to evolve your creature from humble to dominant.
Any part of your beastly avatar’s body from jaws to tail could be modified to augment your base stats or bestow new abilities on you. You could put a horn on your snout for a charge attack, focus on more powerful teeth to improve your bite, add armor to your body, choose to become a two-legged animal instead of four, or even get wings. Each choice had its positive and negative effects on your abilities, so it was really all about building the kind of animal you want to build. Needless to say, the replayability was through the roof.
Funny little aside about life in the early 90’s: I was the only one of my friends allowed to play this game. Why? Because evolution was for devil-worshipers, of course. Laugh all you want, but that was real shit back then. I guess my mom figured time I spent playing evil video games was time I wasn’t lighting matches and cackling menacingly while staring into the flame and went with the less scary of the two. She probably made the right call.
Maybe it’s the subconscious knowledge that I was already going to Hell for playing EVO that’s made me such an irrepressible bastard all these years. Welp, I already played Satan’s favorite video game so I may as well pop some Slayer into my cassette deck and go sacrifice some babies while spray-painting inverted crosses in alleyways. But wait, now it’s the 21st century and the Pope believes in evolution? I’ll bet he’s a closet gamer too. He would totally bless this remake if it happened.
One should never underestimate the 16-bit era from whence many of the greatest games of all time sprang, but when you think about the massive possibilities of this premise, a 2D action-platformer probably wasn’t the extent of this concept’s potential. The game was developed by Almanic, and I’ve never played another of their titles, which doesn’t bode well. However, Enix was the game’s publisher, and I wonder if Square-Enix might still have the rights tucked away somewhere. If so, screw them for not making a new EVO instead of those ridiculous Final Fantasy sequels.
A lot of games these days are making massive, detailed open worlds with AI ecosystems that operate independently of the player. Think about how great that would be to play as a creature in such an ecosystem working your way to the top of the food chain instead of, say, running drugs, hitting things with swords, or running over hookers with stolen cars. An open world EVO on modern systems would be a hell of a showstopper. And that’s not even thinking about the multiplayer possibilities.
So anyone else out there remember this one? And if you don’t, would you not rather be evolving totally awesome and unique creatures instead of trying to make videos of yourself doing 360 no scopes, hunting for exploits, trolling message boards and comments sections, and doing other things gamers do because they’re bored and developers normally can’t be bothered to make something cool and interesting enough to really capture our imaginations anymore?