Being a young boy means you tend to gravitate towards certain things. As a child, superheroes (or comics in general) seemed to take up most of my book collection(and my wardrobe). Action figures were a natural progression from there. Playing outside, sports with the neighborhood kids, and just running around like a crazy person also took up a majority of my waking hours. But of all the things that resonated with my younger self, dinosaurs were the king. What little boy doesn’t love dinosaurs? These terrible lizards are the heroes of boyhood. They are creatures that were so big, they could eat an entire elephant(or groups of schoolyard bullies, if needed). Dinosaurs are dragons that were real. Video games (and the release of the film Jurassic Park) only served to deepen my relationship with these reptiles, particularly these games released on the Super Nintendo.
I suppose we should start at the very beginning, as it is a very fine place to start. The saurian beginning I am speaking of is none other than Yoshi! It would make sense that Yoshi would be found in Super Mario World, as the game takes place in Dinosaur Land. This adorable mean-green-eating-machine allowed Mario to ride on his back and would help him through the dangers of this new world, save for the Ghost Houses, which Yoshi was too scared to enter. Yoshi would go on to have several games of his own, including the incredible Yoshi’s Island, which debuted on the Super Nintendo for the 10 Year Anniversary of Super Mario Brothers release. Yoshi also made an appearance in the Mario Brothers Movie, but we don’t really need to get into that abomination now, do we?
The Super Nintendo was home to many games that featured the theme of heroic cavemen versus dinosaurs being controlled by an evil force. Two of these games seemed to rip each other off, but were in fact, sequels! Joe and Mac was a superb 2 player co-op game featuring a pair of cavemen on an epic quest… to save their hot cavebabes from Neanderthals who had kidnapped them. The player took control of the titular characters, Joe and Mac, who would battle their way through Neanderthals and smaller creatures to fight a huge dinosaur boss at the end of each level. The reward for defeating each boss was a kiss from one of the cavewomen of the village. If you were playing with a friend, the game would keep a tally of who did more damage to the boss, and thus, the winning player would receive the kiss, while the loser would look on and weep at the lack of action being thrown their way.
Similarly, Congo’s Caper featured a caveman/monkey protagonist whose cave/monkey girlfriend was kidnapped by an evil demon kid (just ignore the “monkey” bit, it was a feature in the game, you could become a monkey, whatever). This title featured dinosaur and Neanderthal enemies (called “Fuzzynecks” in this game) very similar to those in Joe and Mac, but the bosses are where the games differ. As opposed to the terrible lizards that awaited Joe and Mac, Congo was forced to fight a cave ninja, a cave vampire, a cave pirate, and a cave evil scientist (what?) in order to get an attempt at the final boss, a winged demon. For both of these games, the final battle with the demon takes place in a dinosaur’s stomach, which is both awesome and gross. For the longest time, the fact that there are so many similarities between these games led me to believe that one ripped off the other. Young Chip felt as though some low budget company must have seen how totally awesome Joe and Mac were, and decided to make a crumby facsimile of these two brave cavemen. The reality of the situation is that Congo’s Caper is the prequel to Joe and Mac! We Americans were never privy to this information before the advent of Wikipedia.
No matter where you go, everyone seems to have an opinion on evolution; as to whether it exists or if it is simply a theory. My belief is that it makes for a great basis for a video game. EVO: The Search for Eden was a strange game from Enix Studios, in which you begin the game as little more than a simple fish at the dawn of time. As a fish, you swim about and consume prehistoric jellyfish in order to gain evolution points. These points are used to upgrade (or evolve, depending on your beliefs) your various body parts and to become a fearsome predator of the deep! The game jumps through five geological periods, each of which has its own world map and set of animals to play as and encounter. The five periods are the Devonian (fishies), the Carboniferous (froggies), Jurassic (dinosauries and birdies), Paleogene (mammal…ies), and Neogene (humanities, the species, not the studies). Once you reach the Jurassic period, the game gives you the option of staying a dinosaur, or growing wings and becoming a bird. No matter which the player chooses, once the Paleogene period approaches (which represents the Ice Age), a third option of becoming a mammal is given, but not forced upon the player. If you were cool, you stayed as a dinosaur until the end of the game, where you fight a giant amoeba for control of the Earth. Like I said, a strange game.
Continuing towards the RPG side of gaming (as well as time travel side of things), I would be remiss if I failed to mention the amazing Chrono Trigger as a solid source of dinosaur-related awesomeness (including a tank shaped like a dino). The main story of this title involves the hero, Chrono, traveling through time in order to save mankind from destruction at the hands of a giant creature known as Lavos. At one point in the game, Chrono and his friends are thrown back in time to the year 65,000,000 BC, where the cavewoman Ayla joins the party. While trapped back in the Prehistoric Ages, our heroes must face the Reptites, a race of dinosaur-humanoid beings that wish to destroy the human race to prove their superiority. The Reptites are led by their queen, Azala, who exerts her control over the stronger dinosaurs using psychic abilities. One of the more difficult boss encounters in the game involves fighting Azala and her top warrior, the Black Tyranno, over a bridge in the Tyranno Lair. The giant T-Rex appears later in the game, during the time of the Middle Ages as the Rust Tyranno. This implies that not only did the Black Tyranno survive your attack, but it also lived for thousands of years with only some slight rust to show for it. Makes one wonder just what happened to the dinosaurs…
I could go on for days and days about dinosaurs, but that about does it for this post. I know that there are so many more examples of dinosaurs on the Super Nintendo. Chuck Rock, Primal Rage, Dinosaur City, Prehistorik Man, Jurassic Park, and We’re Back are just a few of the games I failed to mention here. But as we have seen throughout the course of history, not all games featuring dinosaurs are worth mentioning (I’m looking at you Turok). Some games should just be left for extinction (HA!).