Body Harvest (N64)
As the last remaining "Dream Team" game to come out, Body Harvest has followed a long, twisting path to its release. Originally slated to come out as a 3-D action/strategy game from Nintendo, the game morphed into an action/RPG and back and ended up as a mixture of action, adventure, strategy, sci-fi, horror, and RPG. Then in 1997, Nintendo decided not to publish the game. No reason was given, but there might be a few possibilities why it was dropped. Was Body Harvest's theme of aliens harvesting on humans too much for Nintendo? Was the fact that it was delayed many times while keeping first-generation graphics, meaning it wouldn't look impressive, a reason? Or was it that it just didn't "feel" like a Nintendo game? Whatever the reason, Gremlin picked up the rights and licensed the game to Midway for release in the U.S.
A good way to describe Body Harvest is that it's a game you'll either like or a game you'll absolutely love. Personally, my opinion falls under the former category. The story behind Body Harvest is that a mysterious comet was discovered in the late 19th century. As it turns out, this comet was an alien spacecraft, as it did not vanish back into the depths of space but maneuvered itself into a much smaller orbit around the Sun. Around 1916 there were reports of attacks on the islands of Greece. The pattern of the attack revealed a "shimmering blue wall" around the area that lasted for 24 hours. Then absolutely no semblance of human life was found in these areas after the wall disappeared. Rescuers from the outside watched in horror as huge insect-like predators hunted and devoured every human in sight. Now the human race has 25 years to devise a plan of defense from the alien ship that was circling back toward Earth. So a team of scientists developed a special "Bio-Armor" unit and invented means of time travel. You will take control of the Bio-Armor and will be sent to key periods in the past to defeat the alien creatures and to save as many humans as possible.
The actual game spans across five huge areas with multiple levels in each. In each section, you must complete multiple objectives and then take out the "Alien Processor," which is what sends out waves of aliens. For example, a few objectives of the first level are to find a switch to lower a drawbridge, locate dynamite to blow up a huge boulder, defend a town from an alien attack, and use a fire truck to put out a fire. So you'll be following orders and directions as your crew helps you out. One of the major gameplay facets that makes Body Harvest so cool is that there are over 50 methods of era-specific transportation throughout the game. So right off the bat, you'll be taking control of various vehicles that make exploring more quick and more fun. Each vehicle has a limited amount of gas, though, so you'll constantly be changing rides.
Along the way, as you explore both on and off the beaten path, you'll come across waves of aliens. You can shoot them both in and out of the vehicle. A few vehicles have their own weapons, but most rely upon your weapon. Your initial pistol has unlimited ammo, but more powerful weapons are limited. Inside the vehicle you have a targeting system that shows you when you're locked on. After you defeat a wave of aliens, another wave shouldn't appear in the same place. The many planned waves throughout each level do stay gone once defeated, but the Alien Processor can send out more waves until you destroy it.
So what's the control like? Body Harvest's control is sufficient but unexacting and stiff. It's disappointing that it's not more smooth considering how long it was in development. The analog Control Stick is used for moving, while the digital Control Pad is used to change weapons. When merely walking, the A button is used to interact with the environment (talk to people, light candles, etc.), the Z button fires your weapon, the L button answers incoming messages, the R button brings you into "sniper mode," and the C buttons are for camera control. You can jump into any vehicle by getting near it and pressing the Bottom C button (pressing Bottom C again gets out). Then the A button is gas, the B button is reverse, the Z button is fire, and the R button still is for "sniper mode." The camera angles are pretty decent in Body Harvest, with the ability to rotate the view 360* and to switch between two zoom levels. In the overworld, there's a medium view and a far away view. Inside structures, there's an angled-overhead view and a close-up, third-person view.
They say looks aren't everything, and that is certainly applicable to this game. Body Harvest very much has the look of a first-generation game with foggy backgrounds, many clipping problems, few special effects, simple polygons, and sometimes bland environments. On the other hand, the aliens are well-modeled and the simpler graphics leave more RAM available for some cool things. For instance, in each level of an area, the game remembers where you left the vehicles, what buildings have lights left on, where people are still roaming around, etc. -- that is, until you leave the level or quit the game. The audio department of Body Harvest is mood-fitting, but it's not exactly a riveting movie score with horror-based sound effects. Thanks to the dynamic nature of MIDI, the music is calm but eerie before a battle, then picks up intensity as an invasion nears. The sound effects are what bring down the sound somewhat. There isn't any voice, even in the introduction, and the screams and yells of both humans and aliens could have been much better. The sound effects of the vehicles are decent, though.
Body Harvest is yet another delightful and highly original game from DMA Design. With a list of credits that includes Lemmings, Uniracers, Grand Theft Auto, and Space Station Silicon Valley, it's no surprise that Body Harvest doesn't look great but has fantastic gameplay. Whether you're looking for a long and challenging game, or you're just looking for a more adult-oriented title, Body Harvest fits the bill. It doesn't have the same addictive gameplay as Blast Corps, in my opinion, but it can fill the much-needed adventure void in your N64 library.
Graphics: 7.2 out of 10
Sound: 7.8 out of 10
Control: 6.8 out of 10
Gameplay: 8.6 out of 10
Replay Value: 6.8 out of 10
Overall: 7.8 out of 10