Welcome to Jurassic June!
This month marks the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie Jurassic Park in theaters, and with a new entry in the series on the way, I’m celebrating all month long by looking back at where it all began — in video game terms, at least. So to kick things off, let’s take a look at the games based on the first movie and novel for the Nintendo Entertainment System, Game Boy, and Super NES.
Starting us off is Jurassic Park on the NES, which is a top-down shooter which follows Dr. Alan Grant as he embarks on a series of missions ranging from gathering dinosaur eggs and rescuing Hammond’s grandchildren to restoring power to the park and, ultimately, escaping the island.
Generally speaking, the game strips away most of the story elements from the material on which its based, leaving an action framework for the player to engage in. That said, this version is unique in that it features a 2-player option, in which both players will take turns following each one’s death, working together in order to complete the objectives.
Plus, whoever was the content watchdog for Nintendo at the time must have been asleep at their post when this game came through — after all, that sure looks like blood dripping from the dino’s teeth on the title screen, doesn’t it?
The Game Boy version was pretty much a straight port of the NES game, with few distinct features of its own to speak of. In an article discussing games with a slim chance of reappearing at retail for a purchase, this one is quite possibly the slimmest as a result.
The Super NES version of the game carries over many of the elements of its 8-bit counterparts, but does a lot of things its own way, too, exploiting the technological superiority of the 16-bit hardware to provide a little more of a unique experience. Right out of the gate, the developers have a little fun playing with a Mode 7 view of the island (albeit a flatly-colored version sporting the Jurassic Park logo), as well as a brief snippet of digitized voice as you start up the game, telling the player “Welcome to Jurassic Park.”
Jurassic Park for the Super NES further divorces itself from the narrative by removing the need to rescue Hammond’s grandchildren, though you will interact with the cast of the movie at different motion sensor checkpoints — some offering helpful advice, others attempting to lead you astray. It also varies the gameplay in some other ways, including starting the player’s Dr. Grant with a cattle prod to zap dinosaurs with, rather than the gun seen in the 8-bit versions (though in both, you can acquire more potent firearms).
Perhaps the biggest difference, however, is what happens when you enter buildings. In the NES and Game Boy titles, you continue with a top-down perspective as usual, but the developers again put the Super NES hardware to good (or at least different) use by turning the interior portions into first-person shooter segments. The screen real estate is limited, however, as your vision is limited to what can be seen through your night vision goggles (whether in the dark or not). Furthermore, these sections can instead be played using the Super NES Mouse accessory, should you have one.
While these games can be fun to play around in for a bit, none of them have a save feature of any kind (though the NES and Game Boy have level select codes), and the endings aren’t much to write home about.