In our second “From the Archives” edition of the show, we’re re-airing a lost conversation from 2013 about The Last of Us – Naughty Dog’s critically-acclaimed survival adventure game. On the eve of its much anticipated sequel, there’s no better time to revisit its inaugural chapter.
In further blurring the lines between gameplay & cinema, The Last of Us has been a focal point for both gamers and industry veterans. Jim Wiser and I became fast friends in art school studying game design together, so I was delighted to have him join me for this episode. We discussed what worked, what felt in conflict with its narrative goals, and ironically our resistance towards an inevitable sequel – especially after that ending.
Set within a broken America amid a global pandemic, The Last of Us‘ atmosphere cuts deeper in 2020. And while this episode serves as somewhat of a time capsule, I suspect it will resonate with those returning to Joel and Ellie’s world today.
Additional Credits & Notes
Jim Wiser and I have been friends since our foundation art classes at the Cleveland Institute of Art, where we collaborated as Game Design majors. Jim’s BFA thesis explored level design as a means to better understand way-finding, and since then he’s created artwork for a number of indie game projects, custom levels for Team Fortress 2, and UI/UX designs for modern mobile applications.
Music in today’s episode is from the OST to The Last of Us and its prequel chapter, The Last of Us: Left Behind, composed by award-winning guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla.
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It’s another deep-dive into another remake…of another classic Playstation series from the mid-to-late 90’s – and it’s on the anniversary of Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy. We might be a year late to the conversation, but we’re just too fond of the orange marsupial to let that stop us.
Originally created by Naughty Dog, the Saturday-cartoon-style platformer made waves in 1996, just as the industry was discovering the 3rd dimension. With its lush art direction, innovative gameplay, expressive characters and irreverent attitude, Crash Bandicoot cemented Naughty Dog as the world-class studio we still know it to be. But it’s Vicarious Visions’ remake that brought Crash to an entirely new generation last June — and to the center of our discussion today.
Not only is Crash’s makeover a piece of modern entertainment, but an important entry into the efforts of game preservation. By adapting & rebuilding the trilogy for modern consoles and players, Vicarious Visions brought a renewed clarity to a notable slice of gaming history. We look at what choices they had to consider, what they refined, what they changed, and what they preserved with an unwavering loyalty.
Being a year removed from the N. Sane Trilogy has its benefits, though. As three-games-in-one, this was no easy topic to digest nor keep to an hour. But our mutual hindsight keeps things sprightly and candid. My partner and guest, Hilary Bovay, is the only other person I know who grew up with a love for this trilogy to match my own. Join us for a myriad of perspectives as we breakdown the classic Crash Bandicoot trilogy and its gorgeously challenging remake.
Additional Credits & Notes:
Hilary Bovay is an incredibly talented photographer from Aquidneck Island, RI, now based out of Cleveland, OH. She has a keen eye for aesthetics & visual storytelling, and her love for the original Crash Bandicoot is all you’ll ever need to know about her taste in video games.
Music in this episode is from the OST’s to Crash Bandicoot and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, composed by Josh Mancell. The title theme featured at the top of the episode was reproduced by Justin Joyner (Audio Lead at Vicarious Visions).
Welcome to the inaugural episode of Screen Looking, a podcast where close friends take a closer look at their favorite video games.
We’ll be focusing on one game per episode from the perspective of its artwork, game design and storytelling, ranging from contemporary blockbusters to remakes and indies. Typically, we’ll unpack games we’ve already played through. But because this is our first episode, we decided to discuss something special: the newly announced remake of Resident Evil 2 (RE2).
RE2 was originally released in 1998 to critical acclaim as a two-disc game for the Sony Playstation, shortly following its breakthrough predecessor. Twenty years later, it’s finally getting the remake fans have been clamoring for since Resident Evil’s in 2002. The pair of survival horror classics defined a new genre and terrified gamers in their formative years. My guest, Alex Koval, and I can attest to this, as it’s a series we grew up playing together, bonding over, and thinking about ever since.
Join us as we look at what gave RE2 the status it earned in 1998, our impressions of the remake fresh off of its E3 reveal, and what we look forward to seeing next.
Additional Credits & Notes:
Alex Koval is a full-stack web developer, an independent short-filmmaker, and a fan of the horror genre. We’ve been best friends since 2nd grade, and some of his favorite games include Resident Evil, Final Fantasy Tactics, Eternal Darkness, and Banjo Kazooie.
Music in this episode comes from the OST’s to both Resident Evil and Resident Evil 2
Audio clips from Resident Evil courtesy of “Resident Evil – Voice Acting Horror – 10 Minute Cut” by YouTube user gamegoo
Key artists from Vicarious Visions walked me through their approach to remastering Naughty Dog’s iconic PlayStation trilogy, and how they handled inheriting a legacy with millions of nostalgic fans. You can read the full-length feature on Engadget.
As a lifelong fan of Crash Bandicoot, and I am incredibly grateful to have told this story. Within it are in-depth interviews with art & design leads who oversaw the remasters, as well as exclusive behind-the-scenes looks at their process and even some of Naughty Dog’s original concept art. What stood out to me as I worked on this were the philosophical aspects of VV’s approach, and the pressure they placed on themselves in striking a balance between their vision and Naughty Dog’s (circa 1996).
Special thanks to Aaron Soupporis at Engadget for his mentorship, collaborative spirit and going the extra mile on the layout, as well as Jessica Conditt for connecting us. Nicholas Ruepp, Kara Massie, Cory Turner, Curtis Orr, Leo Zuniga and Wiebke Vallentin at VV & Activision were all extremely helpful in coordinating the interviews and art assets we needed, even on the eve of the game’s release date.