Friday, May 18, 2012

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

After concluding Insomniac's Ratchet & Clank series, it's time for the main event in the anticipation for Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. In 1999, Sucker Punch Productions produced their first game, Rocket: Robot on Wheels, for the Nintendo 64. Later in 2002, Sucker Punch would create the character Sly Cooper, leading to an acclaimed trilogy of games on the PS2. The first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, is an excellent start to the trilogy and delivers a memorable platforming experience.

Sly Cooper is the last of the Cooper family, a raccoon family long known for thievery, namely stealing from other thieves. Sly was to inherit the Thievius Raccoonus, a book passed down in the Cooper family for generations that details the thieving techniques from each previous owner, when his father was attacked by a group known as the Fiendish Five, led by an owl named Clockwerk. Each member of the Fiendish Five has taken a section of the Thievius Raccoonus while disposing of Sly's father, leaving him in an orphanage where he meets his friends Bentley and Murray. The three of them have become a master thieving trio over the years, all the while looking for hints as to where the Fiendish Five may be. After breaking into a police station in Paris, France, Sly finds what he is looking for and sets off to not only recover his family heirloom, but also defeat the Fiendish Five, including the villainous Clockwerk, once and for all.

While the story isn't very deep, it doesn't need to be in order for you to want to keep going. The events of the game play out with a tone not unlike a Saturday morning cartoon, helped by the stylized and colorful graphics, which isn't exactly a bad thing. In fact, one of the bonuses by the end is the introductory clip done in a style more akin to Japanese anime, and I must say it looks rather amazing. If there was an animated series based on Sly Cooper done in that fashion, I would totally watch it.

Getting back on track, the main characters are pretty likable and you don't need much in order to support them. The villains are actually given fair reasoning for wanting to turn to a life of crime, though Clockwerk's motivation went unexplained. Regardless, the game does a good job with whatever characterization there is and it makes me want to see what happens to the heroes next. The music is also nice to listen to, setting up an appropriate tone with repeating sounds made not annoying. One bit of music stood out in particular while I was playing, during the boss fight with Mz. Ruby that functions like a rhythm game. It can take a while to get the beat down, but to me it seemed like something that could easily be sampled or mixed into its own song, and I would go so far as to call it one of my favorite bits of background music from the entire game.

The game is a platformer, but it has some interesting things in it. As you go through each stage you can learn new ways of getting past your enemies, such as rail walking, spire jumps, and turning invisible to name but a few, and by the end your skill are put to the test on your way to Clockwerk. To learn these skills you must either defeat a boss or break enough Clue Bottles hidden in the area to unlock a safe with a three-digit code. The regular platforming segments have some elements of espionage, such as sneaking around guards or avoiding lights and lasers, among other things. There is however some variety in the gameplay of each locale, with a few racing and shooting segments mixed in, along with timed levels involving a vehicle.

For a game that's roughly 10 years old, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus holds up surprisingly well. It's a fairly short game, but that time is entertaining nonetheless. If you want a good, simple platform game or wish to start your Sly Cooper experience, I would direct you towards this game. It is an experience you won't forget any time soon.

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