Transitions: The Launch Games/End Games Blog

Posted on Feb 13th 2012 at 06:00:36 AM by (dsheinem)
Posted under Total Eclipse, launch games, Playstation

Looking across the PlayStation launch library, there are a number of games which, to this day, continue to ring familiar. NBA Jam Tournament Edition, Rayman, Ridge Racer, The Raiden Project- all of these games are part of ongoing franchises.  Even launch games like Battle Arena Toshinden and ESPN Extreme spawned a number of sequels, and are familiar to most gamers.  However, there were also some more obscure launch titles, one of which is the subject of this entry: Total Eclipse Turbo.

Total Eclipse Turbo is the PlayStation's version of Total Eclipse for the 3DO, a game which had been released almost a year and a half earlier for the that system (which was already starting to die by the time the PlayStation was released).  The PlayStation version added a password feature and sped up the gameplay (thus the "Turbo"), and can be considered the superior version of the game.  The game is an on-rails, 3D space shooter that shares some gameplay characteristics with something like Panzer Dragoon (but without lock-on).  There was a Saturn exclusive sequel named Solar Eclipse.  As a launch game, it is significant for several reasons...

Yes, the cover art is the same on the inside as on the outside.

This was the only 3D flying game at launch. Though the PlayStation's early days would eventually be dominated by titles like Air Combat and Warhawk, both of which used polygons to allow players to move around in space like never before, Total Eclipse Turbo is the only launch game to feature this style of graphics (albeit on very flexible rails).  The engine actually uses a combination of 2D and 3D graphics to an excellent overall effect, and the experience is ultimately faster and more arcade-like than any of the aforementioned titles.  Total Eclipse Turbo ends up feeling like a 3D shmup of sorts, and is the only launch game that probably didn't really fit into a traditional genre category. (The closest gameplay one may have found previously would have been in something like Star Wars: Rebel Assault or StarFox)

There is evidence that the game was rushed to meet launch.  Other than the very slight additions to the game over the original 3DO version that were mentioned in the intro above, there are two other things suggest that Crystal Dynamics rushed this to the PlayStation in order to make the launch.  For one, theres a discrepancy between the names of each level in the instruction manual and those in the game itself.  For example, the manual lists the title of level 2 to be "Omega Nebula"  whereas the game itself calls this level "Magma Prime."  Second, it feels rushed because the game features a very basic and bland menu (something that was typical of many early PS1 games), which is difficult to navigate and unintuitive.  If the developers spent any resources working on new presentation elements for the PlayStation, they were minimal.

Same level, different names!

Total Eclipse Turbo shouldn't be overlooked as just another clunky FMV-filled game from the early PS1 days.  It features a fast and consistent framerate, forgiving gameplay and ample continues, and decent production including what, for the time, was well-done CGI and a non-typical game soundtrack.   Compared to most other launch titles, the game has faded into obscurity a bit, and it obviously didn't become the powerhouse franchise that Crystal Dynamics probably had hoped for.  Still, if you were standing in a store on August 30, 1995 trying to pick out a game to go with your new PlayStation, you could have done much worse.

"The more you kill, the better you feel!" Brilliant marketing!

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Shadow Kisuragi said on 1/6/12 6:15 PM Here\'s a bit of history/trivia for those interested:Air Combat - first game registered for the PlayStation in the USRidge Racer - first game registered for the PlayStation in Europe and Japan

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