Sonic versus Mario. Mortal Kombat versus Street Fighter. Phantasy Star versus Final Fantasy. There’s no shortage of great battles to be fought over whether the Genesis or the Super Nintendo had access to the greatest library of the ’90s, but while the heavyweights battled it out with great fanfare and BBS flame wars, smaller games had to throw their differences into the fight as ammunition to use in the truly momentous conflicts. Nowhere did these smaller bullets fly more quickly than when titles licensed from popular source material had entirely different experiences on the two systems. “The Genesis version of Aladdin has unparalleled graphics!” “The SNES Shadowrun is unlike anything else available on either console!”
“Yeah, well you can play as a raptor.”
Some of these battles were brutally short. While Jurassic Park on the SNES baffled its target audience with a top-down egg hunt interspersed with murky Wolfenstein-inspired interior stages, the Genesis version went for the throat with the opening screen of an incredible looking digitized T-Rex shouting the Sega scream. The SNES game looked like a cartoon! The Genesis game looked like the movie! And most importantly, while its frog-DNA clone cousin forced you to stay in the shoes of Dr. Alan Grant, nature found a way on the Genesis to allow you to take control of the claws of the real hero of the film.
No kid who saw Jurassic Park wanted to play as Alan Grant, a paleontologist with respect and awe for dinosaurs forced to use all manner of non-lethal and brutally lethal force against the creatures he loved. It was shoe-horning action where it didn’t fit, and never mind that the brunt of Jurassic Park’s content came from the seven stages of Alan Grant’s campaign to escape the island. While Alan traversed slowly through sprawling stages full of dinosaurs out to make a snack of him, picking up multiple weapons and finding fuel tanks for his raft or exhaust valves to escape a pumping facility, the raptor leapt through five brisk stages full of stun-gun wielding humans to pounce on and tasty little compys.
Never mind that neither half of Jurassic Park is very good. The levels are unfair and full of cheap hits and unseen pits, the digitized graphics account for about six sprites total for the entire game, and the controls are unforgivingly stiff. Death comes frequently and send you back to the beginning of your current stage without mercy. Somehow, none of this matters when you’re playing as the raptor. Your leap can clear nearly two full screen heights, and jumping on enemies to take them out with your razor-sharp talons feels satisfying enough to forego just about any complaint about awkward hitboxes or leaps of faith onto tiny platforms. You bound with abandon and devour the weak with extreme prejudice. No gaming experience could live up to the awe that the Jurassic Park film managed to inspire at the time of its release, but only one Jurassic Park game even bothered to revel in the joy that could be had simply playing as a dinosaur. Even the smallest victories can still be considered wins.
Article by Marc Host
GameSpite Journal 12: Jurassic Park