It feels like it’s been ages since we had a Ratchet & Clank game, even though in reality it’s only been just over two years since the bite-sized Into the Nexus hit. The third-person action adventure franchise with a mix of platforming, shooting, puzzles and a few role-playing elements tossed in the mix, set in a family friendly science fiction setting has been notable not just for its unique gameplay, charm and humor, but also because it’s one of the few remaining platforming franchises available on the PlayStation.
This month brings not only a re-imagining of the original game, but also an animated movie based on the origins story of the duo, and they both fit perfectly. It’s a great opportunity to go back and make retcons for the original nostalgic fans, while introducing a new generation to the franchise. The Ratchet & Clank games have always been very visually close to a Pixar movie, and indeed, the visuals of this upcoming game are gorgeous, which is not to say the visuals of the movie aren’t. In fact, you’ll find that they’re both visually very consistent.
It remains to be seen whether this will finally break the old video game movie curse, but what’s almost certain is that the game, particularly at its $39.99 suggested retail price point, will be an absolute blast. And here’s why:
An Epic Arsenal of Weapons
If you don’t know the Ratchet & Clank franchise, it will be helpful to understand that its assortment of weapons is some of the best and wackiest in gaming history. From the disgustingly powerful R.Y.N.O. to the ludicrous Morph-O-Ray, the original game was packed with a great arsenal, which is part of what earned it so much praise.
But the arsenal from the original wasn’t anything compared to what would follow. The original R.Y.N.O. does not hold a candle to the RYNO V, which treats players to the 1812 Overture as it’s fired, and the series has seen many more very satisfying and outrageous weapons, from the Groovitron which forces enemies to dance when deployed (each enemy has its own programmed animation, by the way) to the wise-cracking Mr. Zurkon which delivers as many hilarious one-liners as it delivers lasers to the face of the aliens and robots that the duo meet. Both of these weapons are coming to the reboot. And that’s not to mention the Pixelizer, a shotgun which transforms enemies into their 64-bit pixel selves as it fires. Going back to the original levels with a much more beefed up arsenal is bound to be fun.
An Awesome Cast
Another thing the series is known for is its cast of characters. There’s obviously the titular Lombax known as Ratchet, and the robot known as Clank, who are lovable by themselves, but the cast they’re surrounded with is just as great. From the megalomaniac Qwark, a galactic superhero celebrity, to the insane Nefarious, a mad scientist and Qwark’s arch-nemesis, the series has always been full of colorful characters who have never failed to be a great source of comic relief that add a lot of charm to the game.
But that wasn’t always the case. In the original game, Ratchet wasn’t the most likable character, and was criticized for being a selfish and arrogant teenager who wasn’t fun to play as. The character even had a completely different voice actor. Also, even though Clank, Qwark, the powerful villain Drek, the laid back “dude” Skid McMarx, the scientist Big Al and the mysterious Plumber were great stand-out characters, the rest of the cast was largely forgettable.
In the re-imagining, many members of the original cast (aside from Ratchet, Clank, Qwark, Al, Skid and the Plumber) have new voice actors, and there have been new characters thrown in. One example is Victor Von Ion, a robot working for Drek and voiced by Sylvester Stallone. There’s also Grimroth, Ratchet’s new mentor, as well as Cora and Elaris, new characters making up the new Galactic Rangers group. And Nefarious is returning, as his pre-robot self, retconned in to now be working with Drek. And from the divisive spinoff Deadlocked, news reporters Dallas and Juanita are also returning via retcon. Will anyone else be in? I’m holding out hopes for a Courtney Gears cameo.
A Perfect Mix of New Material and Nostalgia
Now this one should be fairly obvious, and is the goal of any reboot, but we know that a lot is being done in this department. Aside from the aforementioned returning characters and returning weapons, nostalgic fans have a lot of new material to look forward to.
From the footage seen, there’s clearly a mix of a new and remade levels from the original. A clear example is planet Kerwan (Metropolis) in which a new ship segment is added, leading directly into the level from the original, with a re-imagined train segment. On Veldin (Ratchet’s home), the footage suggests the entire world has been redone completely, while fan favourites like Pokitaru are faithful to the original. However, even on these worlds, the order of everything appears to be mixed up this time around. For instance, on Novalis, the second level, the two planets (and the ship) unlocked after each task is completed are reversed, while it appears the Hydrodisplacer gadget is unlocked even earlier on Aridia, while the fan favorite Blargian Snagglebeast boss is fought on the Blarg Tactical Research Station.
It also looks like — in light of the reimagining — the story will be mixed around a lot as well. Ratchet joining the Galactic Rangers is a new element to the story entirely, and the original story wasn’t told from Qwark’s perspective. So it will be very interesting to see what else changes.
Did I mention the graphics are absolutely gorgeous?
Well, they are.
A Breath of Fresh Air
When the original game was released in November 2002, the industry was still big on platformers and mascots, though it was transitioning to an era of much more mature games (evident in partner franchise Jak and Daxter‘s transition from Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy to the GTA-like Jak II). But having been on a break, the Ratchet & Clank formula is now something fresh for many people, in an age where first-person shooters and open world games dominate the console market.
Family games for the biggest console in the market have been relatively lacking, at least in the exclusives department. Though the continued success of games like Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions, and of course the immediately successful Kickstarter for Yooka-Laylee prove there’s still a strong market for these games, the genre has been mostly ignored by Sony. Knack was an attempt to break into this market upon release of the console, but critics found it repetitive, and gamers and developers alike agreed. LittleBigPlanet is still going fairly strong, but it’s known for its creative tools and not its main story. It’s the perfect time for gamers to embrace the Ratchet & Clank franchise.
Ratchet & Clank hits store shelves April 12 in North America, while Europe gets the game a bit later.