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Ape Escape (1) is the primary game here.
Ape Escape: On the Loose will also be mentioned here, due to being a modified PSP port of the PS1 game.
Info about the other games will naturally have their own sections.
User 1's NotesEdit
Add anything you feel like adding here.
Ape Escape 1
Ape Escape is one of those games that to be perfectly honest, I don't think is possible to "hate" unless you just don't give it a chance period. I can understand someone not quite liking it, but you'd have to be blind to not see how ambitious it was.
Like others, what cements Ape Escape as a good, if not GREAT, game to me, is, among other things, the solid controls and use of every button. Far too often do you see buttons listed as "NOT USED" or even worse, having multiple buttons do THE SAME FUCKING THING (devs of recent Mario games, I'm looking at you, ya assholes). Ape Escape is fucking awesome in this regard. I will say that the actual "control" of Spike could stand to be better. He runs a little stiffly (not entirely, but just notably) and my biggest complaint is how he sort of jumps "Classicvania" style (slightly delayed, primarily one direction, unable to change direction mid-jump (at least not easily)). This is alleviated somewhat with double jumping, the Sky Flyer, and the Super Hoop (sometimes called Dash Hoop, it seems), but it can still be a bit of a problem at times (most notably that goddamn Specter Circus segment). Other than that, I don't have any complaints about controls or control. The slingshot (or whatever the game calls it) is a little slow in FPS movement and TPS turning, but it's not something that will fuck you over in the long run.
When it comes to gadgets though, that's probably what I personally enjoy the most about Ape Escape. The gadgets and sense of progression. It makes it feel rather adventure-like in a way, since you can get a new gadget, then backtrack to find secrets or apes that you missed before or could see, but couldn't get. What's great too is that each gadget is just enough, improving your capabilities while also not making the others suddenly useless (with one exception). The radar let you find apes you couldn't see or might not be aware of, slingshot meant you can hit stuff from a distance, the hoop let you run faster, the sky flyer let you (triple) jump higher, the car let you squeeze through places you couldn't crawl through and also stand two places at once. On top of that, each one was just enough. Like I said before, getting the Sky Flyer didn't suddenly make the Hoop useless, or the car make the slingshot pointless. To some extent, you might use the hoop over the stun club, sure, but the club was still better at precise attacks and you didn't have to worry about running past a target on accident, or accidentally being bounced back by a target at excess speed to the point where you run off a platform. The exception mentioned being the Magic Punch. While somewhat goofy looking, it was the perfect "main game" reward. You could finally break those damn blocks you couldn't before, most foes fell in one hit to it, and you could fully complete the game for radical True Final Boss to challenge and get the real ending you deserved. Sure, it pretty much kicked the shit out of other methods of attack, but at the same time, you already "beat" the game, so at this point, you were just trying to get all the stuff you missed.
What I would call equal points of greatness would be the music and levels. Ape Escape has some sweet tunes, that even years later, I still listen to. At first glance, you might think "Drum and Bass? Aw hell no." But you'd be wrong. Unlike the wub-a-dub-wubwubwubwubwubwub shit that comes out of no-skill asshats, Soichi Terada's efforts are all neat and sweet. Damn near every stage has its own song, and is better off for it. In games, one often sees the same sort of generic instrumentation and melodic tropes used for certain stage types, like say grunts, drums, and low woodwinds, for "prehistoric" stages or slow string choirs and orchestra for "medieval" stages. Ape Escape's soundtrack defies this quite well. Instead you have an upbeat, almost pop-like song for its prehistoric stages, and while some of the timbers sound "primal", you can clearly tell they're meant to be modern instruments, evidenced by the delayed synth that lies in the background along with the later soft but low brass. Sometimes, sure, it gets a little typical and traditional, but not to the point of cliche, and mostly for the sake of remix. A perfect example being its medieval stage's song, which starts with an almost club-like vibe, and uses deep strings, but not slowly rather as a beating pulse, and builds on it with faster and lighter strings, but never to the point of what you'd call "classical music". The strings are being used in a percussive manner, rather than a vocal or choir style as they typically are. In terms of level design, Ape Escape starts small and simple like most games, but also gives you multiple things to climb on and practice your jumping. It's also big enough for the monkeys to run away from you, but small enough to cut them off and catch up to them. After that, stages grow almost exponentially. Having several rooms and sections eventually. Each one is a essentially a hub though, which means you can always backtrack, and at times, even find passages between segments to gain entry into areas that you couldn't before, such as an area in one segment of a stage that's divided by bars that you can't fit through, but has an alternate path to get to the other side. A lot of this seems pretty simple, and something of a given nowadays, but Ape Escape was one of the first to really do it "right", making it something of a pioneer in game design to come, and why it is both fondly remembered, but also remains a classic and an inspiration.
I'm not going to say that I know what goes through every dev's head, but I think a lot of people who had played early 3D platformers may have thought "Hey, this is a neat idea." and while they weren't too prominent, it became something that people were looking into. When Mario 64 became known (hell, just gameplay, not even being out), I'm sure people thought "Hey, this is pretty impressive. I gotta get on this cash cow!" and we got a bunch of "me-too" games, some of which were just piss-poor like Bubsy 3D and Earthworm Jim 3D. but there were others that actually put solid effort into their attempts, like Rayman 2 and Goin' Quackers. However, I think Ape Escape is when people finally thought "Man, we need to step our game up. People can actually make some good games in 3D!" The Dual Shock was a big part of this as well. It was one thing for the N64 to have a stick and some oddly placed buttons and shape, but the dual shock was like the perfect controller shape with just the right placement of buttons, with possibilities that gave consoles an opportunity to get a fairly big step closer to PCs in terms of what you could do with a single controller. That isn't to say that Dual Shock wasn't something used before, but Ape Escape made it a requirement to use and also used its analog stick additions as more than just an alternate input. I think devs might tend to cite games like Mario 64, Zelda OoT, and Metal Gear Solid as 3D inspirations, but with the exception of Mario 64, but, at least to me, the other two were for the most part just flat action on multiple planes. You could put them in 2D, like overhead/bird's eye view, and you wouldn't really lose much. They'd still play the same for the most part. That might be partly because they both grew from such origins with past games, but at the same time neither really felt like they quite took a significant leap forward in terms of control. A big part of that, at least to me, is the ability to jump. Both Mario 64 and Ape Escape could keep some of the same spirit in 2D, but no matter what the angle, you still lose a lot from the lack of a third dimension. This is because level design for those gave you opportunities where you take advantage of your capabilities. In OoT, you can only jump when the game lets you, as high and far as it lets you. People were having a field day when Link's Awakening came out and the Roc's feather let you jump, and even more so when you could combine the Pegasus Boots. I can't speak for everyone, but I felt like that such a big step back when you couldn't do that in 3D, even worse so that you had to push some stupid block to get up to someplace just barely outside of your reach. Metal Gear Solid is a stealth game, sure, but there's pIenty of times where you'd just want to jump on or off of something, but you're restrained as well. Given Snake's super-soldier status, it almost feels like an insult. This is why AE and M64 felt like such an step forward, because you COULD jump AT WILL up to someplace or off of something without some dumbass prompt. And when you couldn't reach a place, you knew there was a way to get to it with either a different jump or gadget or something quick and easy like a nearby switch. You didn't just see a knee-high gate and say, "Well, guess I have to WALK around and CLIMB something to get past this." Hell, even with enemies, you could jump up and smack them. In those "grounded" style 3D games, you had to pull out your projectile weapon or wait for them to get close to you actually be able to land a hit. It's great to see how games soon after like Jak and Daxter, Ratchet and Clank, hell, even fucking Kingdom Hearts used similar aspects of advancement (and even more so) to their advantage, and let you know that 3D was becoming something that games made you think about, and not just an experience you can easily recreate in 2D. The Z-azis mattered now and was something you could easily, instantly, and actively have your character interact in, instead of just some bastard ass enemies flying around like they own the fucking place.
AE: OtL is actually a pretty good port, all things considered. People are wary of the whole button factor, along with the lack of a second stick, but to be honest, it still plays mostly the same. If you liked Ape Escape, you'll probably like OtL, as soon as you get used to it (which honestly doesn't take very long). Gadgets have made slight adjustments, but for the most part everything controls the same. The Stun Club still hits in any direction, but now it aims the direction you face, so you have to nudge Spike in the direction you want, and after striking, you can still spin as normal, just with the movement stick instead. The only thing that really got hit with the nerf-stick would be the RC Car, which you can still move and control it at the same time, but because it uses the D-Pad, it's not nearly as tight as it once was. It works enough to the point where you aren't going to throw your PSP at the wall, but yeah, it's a pretty noticeable downgrade. As for aesthetics, it's cleaner looking than Ape Escape is, due to less jaggies, some better textures, and a slightly improved polygon count. The music sounds as great as ever, and thankfully didn't seem to lose any sound quality. Some people give the new voices some shit, but I think they work well. Sure, it's a bit jarring to hear Daggett from Angry Beavers as Spike, Digimon's Tai as Jake, and Viewtiful Joe as Specter, but fuck it. At least they sound like they're kids and not a bunch of 30 year olds like in the PS1 version. Not that the old voices were "bad", but you gotta admit they didn't quite fit for the characters' ages. One thing I've also read is that some people claim that the controls and physics are worse in this version than the PS1. Honestly, I can't tell the difference. The original wasn't super-exact, and I remember fucking up jumps in the same ways I do in the PSP version. The one complaint that is valid though is the fact that the port increased the game's load times. Yeah, I can't deny this. Having a digital copy helps, but it's nowhere near as smooth-loading as the PS1 original was. I'm surprised there was never a patch or anything to be honest. Sure, it was within the launch window, but at the same time, it's been quite a while since its release as well. Is it terrible? No, but it could be better. In a digital format, it takes about 3-7 seconds or so (Mississippi seconds, not just counting to five), depending on what the game's loading. I don't know about a hard UMD though. Still, it's never bad enough to where you have to put the game down and wait.
When all's said and done, I still enjoy Ape Escape, even 13 years later. It's a game that isn't perfect, but still good, and, for its day, solid. I admire the devs for doing a damn fine job. They may not have been the first to make a 3D platformer, but they were one of the first to make a really good one.