Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus
|Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus|
|Developer(s)||Sucker Punch Productions|
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Engine||SPACKLE (Sucker Punch Animation and Character Kinematics Life Engine)
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus (known as Sly Raccoon in Europe and Australia) is a platform stealth video game created by Sucker Punch Productions that was released on the Sony PlayStation 2 in 2002, and was subsequently republished as a "Greatest Hits" title. The game was followed by three sequels, Sly 2: Band of Thieves, Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time. On November 9, 2010, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus, as well as its first two sequels, were released together as The Sly Collection, a remastered port of all three games on a single Blu-ray disc as a Classics HD title for the PlayStation 3. On February 5, 2013, a fourth Sly Cooper title, Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time, was released on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita.
The game focuses on master thief Sly Cooper and his gang, Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippo, as they seek out the Fiendish Five to recover his family's "Thievius Raccoonus," a book with the accumulation of all of Sly's ancestors' thieving moves. The game was praised for using a variation on cel-shading rendering, which is used to create a film noir feel, while still rendered as a hand-drawn animated movie, though criticized for being too short.
Master thief Sly Cooper, with the help of his friends Bentley, a talented hacker and technician, and Murray, the gang's getaway driver, breaks into Interpol's offices in Paris to obtain a police file on the Fiendish Five, the world's five most wanted criminals. Despite being ambushed by his love interest, Inspector Carmelita Montoya Fox, Sly escapes. As the gang returns to their hideout, Sly explains that he is descended from the Cooper Clan, a family of thieves who specialize in stealing only from criminals throughout history, who maintained a book, the Thievius Raccoonus, to record their unique skills and abilities for posterity. The night Sly was to inherit the book, the Fiendish Five murdered his father in front of him and stole the book, dividing it into five pieces before going their separate ways to commit dastardly crimes. Sent to an orphanage, Sly formed a gang with Bentley and Murray, vowing to one day track down the Fiendish Five, avenge Sly's father, and restore the Thievius Raccoonus.
Their first target is Sir Raleigh, a greedy aristocrat who uses his mechanical skills to prey on ships throughout the islands of Wales. After bringing down Raleigh and leaving him to be arrested by Inspector Fox, the gang then heads to Mesa City, Utah, where Raleigh's old friend Muggshot has taken over the city center for his personal gambling empire. Once Muggshot and his gangsters are dealt with, the gang heads to their third target in the Haitian jungle; Mz. Ruby, a voodoo priestess, who plans to create an army of ghosts to terrorize those who rejected her as a child. The fourth target, the mysterious Panda King, resides in the Kunlun Mountains of China, where he extorts nearby villages by threatening to bury them in avalanches triggered by his fireworks. With four of the five locked up, Sly analyzes the collected pages of the Thievius Raccoonus and determines that the final target is Clockwerk, an immortal metal owl who has been stalking the Cooper Clan since its earliest days. Bentley traces metal used in some of the Five's vehicles to a remote volcano in Russia, where the gang heads next.
Using special upgrades to the team van, the gang breaches Clockwerk's lair, only to discover that Carmelita has been captured. Sly tries to save her, but nearly dies after being gassed before Bentley is able to rescue him. With Carmelita's help, Sly lays waste to Clockwerk's base and confronts him in aerial combat. Clockwerk reveals that he has always been jealous of the Cooper Clan, and that he turned himself into a machine and recruited the Fiendish Five for the sole purpose of destroying the Cooper family's legacy. Sly replies that he doesn't need the Thievius Raccoonus to be a great thief and proceeds to destroy Clockwerk's body and head. Carmelita moves to arrest him, but agrees to give him a ten-second head start. Sly kisses her at the last second while also handcuffing her to a rail, running off with his gang in celebration as Carmelita angrily swears to hunt him down.
After the credits, one of Clockwerk's eyes flashes open, indicating that he is still alive.
Sly Cooper is a third person platforming video game which incorporates stealth elements; as noted by an Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine retrospective, the game "tries to mix one-hit-kill arcade action with Splinter Cell sneaking". The player controls Sly Cooper, the title character, as he moves between each uniquely themed lair of the Fiendish Five and the sub-sections of those lairs, avoiding security systems and the watchful eyes of enemies. While Sly is equipped with a cane to attack his foes, he can be defeated with a single hit, and so the player is urged to use stealth maneuvers and the environment to evade or silently neutralize potential threats.
To assist in these stealth moves, the environment contains special areas colored with blue sparkles of light, identified in the game as Sly's "thief senses." The player can trigger context-sensitive actions in these areas, such as shimmying along a narrow ledge or wall, landing on a pointed object such as an antenna or streetlight, climbing along the length of a narrow pole or pipe or using the cane to grapple onto something. The player must avoid detection by security systems and enemies, otherwise an alarm will sound and the player will either have to destroy the alarm, avoid or defeat foes alerted by the alarm or hide for several seconds until the alarm resets. The game uses a dynamic music system that changes depending on the state of alarm in the area: the music will increase in volume and pacing when Sly attacks or is detected, and then will quiet down as the disturbance goes away.
Each sub-section of a lair contains a number of clue bottles which, when collected, allow Sly to access a safe in the level that contains a page from the Thievius Raccoonus. These pages grant Sly new moves to aid in movement, stealth, or combat, such as creating a decoy or dropping an explosive hat. Defeating each of the bosses also gives Sly moves, and these abilities are typically necessary to pass later levels. Coins are scattered about the levels and are also generated by defeating enemies or destroying objects. For every 100 coins collected, Sly gains a lucky horseshoe that is the color blue and when you have two horseshoes, it turns gold. It will allow him to take extra hits, or if he currently has one, an extra life. If Sly collapses and loses a life, the current sub-level will be restarted or at a special "repeater" that acts as a checkpoint; if the player loses all of Sly's lives, they must restart that bosses' lair from the beginning. Besides the regular gameplay, there are mini-games that include driving levels (based on Murray), shooting levels to protect Murray as he ascends certain levels, and a cyber-tank game representing a hacking attempt by Bentley. One notable boss battle includes a rhythm-based sequence similar to Dance Dance Revolution.
Levels can be returned to at any time to gain additional coins or to seek out special moves. When a level is completed, all of the clue bottles are collected and the secret move is found, the player can then attempt a "Master Sprint", a timed sprint through the level to try to beat a set time. The player can unlock additional artistic content by completing all the levels in this fashion. For each level that you complete the "Master Sprint" on, you unlock developers commentary for that level. This was removed in The Sly Collection.
Graphics and visual design
Brian Flemming of Sucker Punch called the rendering style as "Toon-shading", comparing the detailed backgrounds with cel-shading foregrounds to that of animated movies. An interview with the Sucker Punch development team identified that they took this route because "We wanted Sly and his world to look illustrated, but one step away from a flattened graphic style." To prevent slowdowns with framerates, the team "had at least one engineer working on nothing but performance for the entire development of Sly." The game art team "collected hundreds of photos and drawings of areas that looked like the worlds [they] wanted to create" to generate the backgrounds. The characters themselves underwent up to "six or eight major revisions" before the designs were finalized.
Sound and music
The music was inspired by the artwork from the game; Ashif Hakik, composer of the game's music, stated that "Stylistic influences came from a combination of instrument choices and musical character defined and inspired by the locales in the game, and similar composer works like Yoko Kanno and her work on Cowboy Bebop, Henry Mancini, and Carl Stalling." He continued to note that "the interactive music engine we used made us consider the gameplay for each specific level a sort of starting point that would influence the way the music would be written."
There are two different covers for the game and they both have two different names, depending on location; Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus in North America and Sly Raccoon in Europe.
The Japanese version of the game sports a vocal theme song called Blackjack, set to a flashy intro not seen in the North American or PAL versions of the game. While the group singing the song, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, has a distinct Japanese accent, none of the lyrics are in Japanese and the entire song is in English.
Another addition in the Japanese version not present in the other versions is alternate animated introduction and ending sequences. These sequences feature full animation, as opposed to the limited flash-style animation seen in the other animated sequences present throughout the game. These alternate sequences are drawn in a typical anime style. The Japanese introduction is unlockable for view in the North American and PAL versions, but the Japanese ending can only be unlocked in the PAL version.
Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was well received by the video game media. Most reviewers praised the unique look of the game. GameSpot noted that "The game has a fantastic sense of style to its design that is reflected in everything from the animation to the unique use of the peaking fad, cel-shaded polygons." Many reviews also appreciated the ease of learning the controls and gameplay; IGN stated that "Sly is incredibly responsive, and though his size seems a little large at times due to his long arms and legs and the cane he carries, skillfully jumping and hitting enemies with precision is a quick study." Several reviewers appreciated the fluidity of the game between actual play, cutscenes, and other features.
The game was also praised for being a game that was accessible to both adults and children.
A common detraction of the game was its length; as commented by GameSpot's review, "The main problem is that just as you're getting into a groove and really enjoying the variety seen throughout the different levels, the game ends." The length was defended by Sucker Punch's developers; Brian Flemming noted that there was additional content to be unlocked at several levels, including "for each [Master Sprint] you complete, you get bonus commentary from the designers, artists and programmers here at Sucker Punch, something that people have reacted to really positively." The game was also cited as being too easy, with GameSpot stating that "The game's relative ease combined with a very short length prevents Sly Cooper from becoming the next big platformer. But it's great while it lasts."
However, Official U.S. PlayStation Magazine noted that in regards to the difficulty "There's a pleasant old-school feel to Thievius Raccoonus; the enemies are merciless but a bit stupid, and the platforming challenges come on strong and ramp up steadily in difficulty as the levels go by." Reviewers also noted some framerate slowdowns in latter levels of the game, as well as some camera control issues.
Sales of Sly Cooper were initially poor, overshadowed by two other PlayStation 2 platformers published around 2002, Ratchet & Clank and Jak and Daxter: The Precursor Legacy. This, however, did not prevent the game from achieving at least 400,000 in sales a year since release to allow it to be included in Sony's "Greatest Hits" line, republishing it in 2003 and at a lower price. The "Greatest Hits" version also used a different cover art than the black label cover of the game. GameSpy considered Sly Cooper to be the 5th most underrated game of all time in a 2003 listing. The game has since yielded three sequels, Sly 2: Band of Thieves (2004), Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves (2005) and Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (2013).
Sly Cooper won "Best New Character" and nominated for "Excellence in Visual Arts" at the 2003 Game Developer's Conference for 2002. Furthermore, the character of Sly Cooper has also been come to be considered as a mascot for the PlayStation systems, alongside both Ratchet & Clank and Jak & Daxter. This has further led to collaboration between the development teams for all three series, Sucker Punch, Insomniac Games, and Naughty Dog, leading to subtle inclusion of some elements of Sly Cooper within the other titles. For example, a brief gameplay clip of Sly Cooper plays among several for Ratchet & Clank 1&2, Jak and Daxter, and Jak II during the start menu for Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando.
A CGI animated film adaptation of this game is currently under development by both Rainmaker Entertainment and Blockade Entertainment. The film will be directed and written by Kevin Munroe, and produced by Brad Foxhoven and David Wohl. The film was scheduled for a theatrical release sometime in the first quarter of 2016, but was pushed to 2017. Carmelita Fox and Clockwerk will also be included. A teaser trailer was released on YouTube on January 28, 2014.
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