In 1995, an animated movie from Japan was release to great critical acclaim. It has inspired the Wachowski's, spawned several sequels and television shows and is credited as being one of the movies to bring about a Japanime boom in the west. Two years later, a game was released on the PlayStation. Unlike it's cinematic counterpart, it eventually found itself amongst the residents of the Collection Chamber. Today, Ghost in the Shell the video game will once again be free.
Ghost in the Shell, the movie, was many people's first introduction to Manga. It contained everything you'd expect from the sub-genre: a complicated adult plot, cool animation and existential soliloquies (apparently something Japanese entertainment cannot be without). It may be easy for most of this review to be overshadowed by the film (and it does deserve the discussion), but we're here to focus on the game.
Developed by Exact, Ghost in the Shell shares a lot with the company's previous effort; the PlayStation launch title Jumping Flash!. The floaty jumping mechanics and 3D engine was brought over from the cutesy first-person platformer, along with a plethora of new creative ideas. The gimmick here is the ability to climb on any flat surface, giving rise to some impressive level design. I have not seen a game since that uses this style of game-play beyond the odd mini-game or small artificially self-contained areas. Here the entire game-play revolves around this.
You control a Fuchikoma or 'think tank', destroying targets and navigating through each of the levels. You may be thinking "what's this spider-bot doing in a Ghost in the Shell game?". Well, a completely new story is told here, one that's based on the original Manga as opposed to the movie (even though the original animation studio and voice actors have created the impressively well-done cut scenes). The tanks have a very satisfying control scheme and its a credit to the game and level design that you rarely get disorientated by the constantly shifting perspectives.
Another thing that is interesting about this game is the fact that it supports widescreen TVs. This was unheard of in 1997. It doesn't automatically migrate to this format thought, so a quick foray into the options screen each time you boot it up is needed.
So why did it end up in the Chamber's vaults? Perhaps the initial buzz around the movie had died down when it was released at the end of 1997 (mid 1998 in Europe). Perhaps it was the surprisingly average review scores at the time leading punters to the juggernauts that were Tomb Raider II or the PC's Quake II. Either way, I believe time has treated this game kinder than many other games at the time with higher scores. The graphics are simple yet agelessly functional, the control scheme it tight and responsive and the level designs are varied and inventive. It is definitely a game that you should check out.
To download the game, follow the link below. This custom installer exclusive to The Collection Chamber uses Retroarch with a Mednafen_PSX core to emulate it on PCs. Keyboard controls are mapped to my preferred optimal specifications. XBox 360 controllers supported. Manual included. Tested on Windows 7.
Version 2 - Improved installer
Ghost in the Shell: The Game is © Exact
Review, Cover Design and Installer created by me