The N64 was conceived not only as a new generation of Nintendo hardware, but one that would usher in a new regime of developers. A console that would be supported not by Nintendo’s traditional Japanese 3rd parties, but by a small number of mostly western studios.
You may have heard of some of them. Acclaim. Rare. Midway. LucasArts. One name you may be less familiar with that was included in this “Dream Team” was DMA Design… They were the studio behind the Lemmings franchise and the Super Nintendo’s Uniracers. They partnered with Nintendo to make Body Harvest.
Body Harvest is the story of genetically engineered soldier Adam Drake, who hails from a future where humankind has been ravaged by a series of ruthless alien attacks which occur every 25 years. As Drake, you must travel back to five important times and places in human history when and where the aliens have harvested large numbers of people. The first setting is 1916 Greece, and times and places range all the way to 1991 Siberia, before heading into the future.
Drake’s mission is a daunting one. The player is dropped into each great sprawling location and left to his or her own devices. Put simply, Body Harvest is a sandbox game, in which the player can hop in and out of any vehicle he or she comes across, and drive with as much or as little sense of purpose as desired.
Of course, along the way you’ll have plenty of aliens to blast, but if you want to shoot down and even run over civilians along the way – well, that’s your prerogative.
Vehicles have their own health levels, and can make for great protection when battling aliens. Some vehicles come equipped with weapons, but, if not, Drake can take care of things with his own guns.
Unfortunately, Body Harvest is also a game ahead of its time. For all their size, the environments often feel empty and the title’s draw distance is remarkably poor, even for an N64 game.
Body Harvest’s development was long and troubled. Nintendo tried to interfere with the game’s original vision – pushing for puzzle solving elements and reduced blood and gore. Ultimately, Nintendo dropped support for Body Harvest, and the game was published by Midway in North America and Gremlin Interactive in Europe. Nintendo and DMA Design would not work together again.
DMA Design would not remain obscure for much longer. After a series of changes in ownership, the studio behind Body Harvest finally wound up at Take-Two Interactive and was renamed Rockstar North. I bet you’ve heard of them.
Rockstar began preparing a sequel to one of its other series, one which would make a radical shift in gameplay design seemingly inspired by ground first broken in Body Harvest. At first, it would come exclusively to the PlayStation 2 and be called Grand Theft Auto III.
The title sounded crazy – too big, too ambitious, but hardware technology had caught up with the vision of Body Harvest. Of course, the new game would meet and exceed every expectation. GTA III and its sequels were primary drivers of the PS2′s crushing success over Nintendo’s GameCube.
Now – with GTA V releasing to mass hysteria, Wii Us sit unsold. Surely, from the perspective of 2013, Body Harvest looks worth publishing now.
Let me know what you think of Body Harvest and the Definitive 50 in the comments section below. Don’t forget to rate and subscribe.
Check back next week for entry #43 on the Definitive 50 N64 Games.