By Hailinel 14 Comments
A common element that many games have, regardless of their particular genre or play style, is the inclusion of an opening cinematic of some sort that plays before the title screen appears, or that only appears if the title screen is left on long enough for the game to enter its attract loop. For some people, these movies aren't necessarily that important, and they'll skip through them at the first opportunity every time. Others, like myself, tend to watch them at least once, if only to get a taste of what's to come before pressing Start.
Neither side is particularly right or wrong in these cases. Technically speaking, the open movie in a game is superfluous; extra padding to view before actually getting into the game proper. If the movie is boring or over-long, it will lose the player's interest, but if it's well paced, it can have the effect of increasing the player's interest in what the game has to offer by presenting them with concepts or moments that they can only see in their full context by actually playing the game. Sort of like a movie trailer, in a way.
Hell, the opening movie to Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner plays out almost exactly like a cinematic trailer, complete with a splash screen of credits near the end. But given that it's a Hideo Kojima game, this might already be obvious to a lot of you reading this. It probably also won't surprise you, given its origin, how utterly indulgent it is:
Holy hell, this video is nearly eight minutes long. Also, it gives away pretty much the entirety of the plot. On the other hand, the first time I watched this opening movie, oh so many years ago, the crazy montages of gameplay had me excited, and for good reason. It shows flashes of all sorts of the fights the player encounters. At no point in the game does it feel like it's repeating itself. Every stage and every boss is a unique experience, and it's demonstrated to great effect.
But an intro movie doesn't need to show gameplay to be effective. Take, for example, the opening movie of Valkyrie Profile.
The entire intro is animated in a style that isn't seen again until briefly at the end of the game. So what does it show? Actually, a lot of important story elements. Some of which are incredibly spoiler-tastic. The thing is, there's no way for the player to know this. The movie is presented in a style that is so unlike the majority of the game itself that what scenes are depicted are impossible to put into context until the game has been played. And not just any simple play-through, either. It depicts characters and events that are only significant if you put in the effort to get the game's best ending; the path toward which is as byzantine as they come, and which diverges wildly from the "average" ending path in both narrative and gameplay content. This movie provides a taste of what is to come should the player go that extra mile. And speaking as one that holds Valkyrie Profile as quite possibly my favorite game ever, that extra mile is worth it.
Which is why I was so disappointed in the presentation of the PSP version. The remake drops the above animated sequence entirely and replaces it with a standard montage of clips from PSP version-specific cutscenes that, while more representative of the game content, don't pack the same punch. Especially for someone like me, who had played and beaten the PS1 version. It even contains a clip from the best ending's final cinematic (also redone in CGI).
And I'm not particularly fond of the remix of the opening theme, either.
To be sure, there's a balance that needs to be struck. What's more important? Demonstrating gameplay, or teasing the story? Should it contain elements from the game itself, or serve its purpose as an entirely original production? The answers to these questions of course depend entirely on the games.
With all of this in mind, what are some of the game intro videos that really caught your attention, for good or ill? What is it you like about them? Do you still watch them to completion when you boot the game up?