While my first gaming console was an NES, the console that really made me into a gamer was my Playstation. The original Playstation, to me, is the cornerstone of gaming and part of a turning point in the industry that has provided us with so many new experiences over the past decade or so. I really liked Nintendo games almost as much as I am liking them now, but at the end of the day in my honest opinion nothing will ever beat the original Playstation. Playstation 2 was a perfect followup with a gigantic and varied game library and my PS3 gets used almost every single day for gaming, movies and other such features, but that first console holds so many awesome memories that I have to hold it as my top favorite gaming hardware of all time. I had played many an action game on the system such as Syphon Filter, Resident Evil and even some of the more Nintendo-like platformer games such as Crash Bandicoot and Croc. The one game that stood out most for me was Ape Escape which was an obscure little Japanese game where you played as a teenager traveling through time to capture some mischievous monkeys and their crazy evil leader.
In a way, you could look at Ape Escape as Wii Sports before the Wii existed. Much like Wii Sports gave you simple fun with the Wii remote, Ape Escape made special use of the Playstation DualShock controller's twin analogue sticks which were a new innovation at the time. You moved with one stick, used items and weapons with the other stick, jumped with R1 and turned the camera with the R2/L2 buttons. You had other features such as crawling by clicking down the movement stick and being able to point your weapon in any direction with the right stick. Several optional minigames also made use of the dual stick setup, such as a DDR like dancing game and my personal favorite the spaceship bullet hell shooter.
Ape Escape was not just fun to play, it also had a fun storyline with likable characters and decent voice acting to boot. I feel that lighthearted story telling is pretty rare in mainstream video games, so it would be nice to have Sony bring that back with a new Ape Escape game on PS4. It could capture not only older Sony fans like myself but also young children who may not have gotten PS4 for games like Knack quite yet. The voice acting in the original game was part of a newer trend in video games and where Resident Evil became infamous for its egregiously bad voice acting, Ape Escape went fairly unnoticed being one of the console games out there with voice acting that was actually pretty good. The hero of the game Spike was a fun and confident teenager who also had a heroic sense of responsibility. He was athletic, courageous and yet still had flaws as in actuality his friends The Professor and Natalie were the brains of the operation. Said characters would often provide new tools and gadgets for Spike to use as the game went on to create a sense of progression. This would entice the player to revisit older world that have areas he or she could not have reached without for example the "Sky Flyer," a personal favorite of mine that allowed Spike to soar upward for a brief moment and glide back down. A lot of these made their return in the PSP remake, but unfortunately the voice acting did not feel as natural and the gameplay was sorely lacking because of the missing second analogue input.
These gadgets made you stronger as you played and created new ways for the player to plan and strategise the capture of their monkey victims. Many of the later monkeys would notice the player fairly easily, but sometimes the player could stealthily sneak up on unsuspecting monkeys and capture them without the need of special tricks or any actually direct conflict. The game was stimulating in a way because it gave the player a kind of freedom that was actually somewhat unheard of in games at the time. Ape Escape gave you the opportunities for freedom to plan your strategies and approach your goal however you wanted to. You could sneak up on monkeys stealthily, run barreling with your stun club in hand, or even try a less conventional approach such as shooting unsuspecting monkeys with your slingshot to knock them and stun them. Basically, Ape Escape was ahead of its time. Its sequel Ape Escape 2 followed this same path and did not offer much in the way of innovation, but did offer a couple new characters, new levels with new kinds of monkeys and of course better visuals for the newer, more advanced hardware. Since then Ape Escape has fallen into obscurity with the mostly unheard of Ape Escape 3 and some spin-off titles that mostly just focused on the monkeys being silly and not really having anything to do with capturing them. There me be other more conventional Ape Escape games that I'm leaving out, but it is only because I have not heard of them due to how far under the radar the franchise has unfortunately fallen. But recently there was a glimmer of hope for us Ape fans...
Marth and Roy appeared in Super Smash Bros. Melee and suddenly their games came to the west. The underrated and solid Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale and its inclusion of Spike into the roster may very well spell out his return in a future Ape Escape game. Here is where I would like to discuss some ideas to help innovate and deepen the experience in a new sequel or reboot. To start off the story must remain simple. No Sonic the Hedgehog edginess crap by making Spike develop an angsty relationship with a monkey princess or something stupid like that. The story should be Specter unleashing the monkeys onto the world and Spike has to stop him. Because DualShock 4 is much more advanced than the original DualShock, you can apply some of the newer features into the game. Imagine using the Dash Hoop to race straight ahead but you need to slightly adjust your trajectory. Subtly tilting your controller can be a way to alter your direction just enough to make tight turns and move just where you need to be. You can also use the touch panel to cycle through gadgets and items without the need to pause the game. Of course updating the graphics would be a necessity and keeping Spike's new design from Playstation All-Stars might be enough to make Spike's design more modern and appealing. Keeping true to the franchise roots, I feel that Sony could take a Nintendo approach and try using toon shading to compliment the chibi anime art style that the games tend to have.
Now let's take a look at what could be changed or updated to help the game become deeper. In previous games you mostly controlled one or two playable characters that were made for the player and the story. Since Ape Escape is about being sent on missions to capture monkeys, why not let the player create their own character and interact with the existing cast like Fire Emblem or Ghostbuster: The Video Game? These characters could then be used in potentical co-op or multiplayer modes that can be made separate from the main storyline. The idea I had for multiplayer goes like this. Players are given a variety of monkey capture missions and enter a variety of arenas with different layouts and obstacles. Each match has only around four to eight players to prevent the games from getting too hectic. The missions could be half co-op, half competitive as you need to help each other but also need to take more enemies and capture more monkeys to earn the most points. By the end of the round, all the players have to work together to take out a boss Monkey of some sort, like a monkey mech. Only through teamwork can this boss be defeated and once it is, multiple monkeys could fly out and fall to the ground in a daze while on some occasions a few of them can get back up and scatter. At this point the players must speed their way into the fray and capture as many of the remaining monkeys as possible. If we wanted to take the concept even further, you could try making the game an open world where you constantly connect with other players randomly such as in Destiny and run into these monkey missions as a sort of random encounter system. Combine all of this with Trophies and leaderboards and you have yourself a new game that can not only be enjoyed by its young target audience but also have its own online community for teens and adults to enjoy.
And that's my idea for a new Ape Escape. As a fan I know it will probably never happen the way I envision it but I thought it would be a fun topic due to Ape Escape articles being rare on here. The spitball hat comes off and the discussion hat comes on... what do you think of this idea and what would you do with a new Ape Escape?