15 Great Games: Rayman (1995)


We are not moving fast at the moment. There’s almost one game per year. That will change too, but it’s early for that. Right now let’s talk about Rayman. Yes, I’m sure just about everyone knows this guy. He’s one of the most ubiquitous faces in platforming, thanks to many appreciated titles throughout the years. But it’s difficult to find someone who likes the first game the best.

There are usually several reasons cited. For starters, the high difficulty: one Gamespot reviewer stated that it’s impossible to finish this game without a guide (but I did, so yeah). It’s certainly true that the game is harder than its sequels, especially with Legends going on the fun havoc route and letting forgiveness take the reins. But it’s not really all that difficult. Rayman controls smoothly, there’s no inertia like in Mario, so you shouldn’t have too much trouble doing the jumps if you use your head. Some will mention the jumps of faith, but there’s no such thing really: everything has some kind of telling sign (granted, some are veeery small).

It's the only title in the series to look like a 90's saturday morning cartoon series. I love it.
It’s the only title in the series to look like an 80’s saturday morning cartoon show. I love it.

Elsewhere, the visuals are to be remembered. Coming out one year after Donkey Kong Country, its graphics are amazing for a different reason: no 3D-looking sprites, instead we get something straight out of a cartoon. Luscious forests, clouds and rainbows, imaginative enemies, different settings and giant bosses. It’s all there, in glorious VGA. See what you can do with 256 colors? And let’s not have the music go unnoticed, because it’s one of my favorite soundtracks ever. Not low-key like the sequels, but taking front stage. Relaxing when needed, bombastic when needed. Old platformers often have strong music, but Rayman stands out even among them.

I wouldn’t want to talk too much about the game because it’s one of the highest selling Playstation titles and I’m sure people already know about it. Still, I would at least say once again that you shouldn’t let the rumors of its high difficulty stop you from trying it: it’s hard, for sure, but not as impossible as many say. It will last hours and offer a strong challenge. Get past its reputation and you’ll discover Rayman is one of the finest platformers of the last century and beyond.

Playing today: after all those PC-only games, finally something that has been released on several platforms. For starters, there’s the PC CD-Rom version. No floppies here, just for the intro animation alone it’s some 100MB! And wouldn’t wanna ruin that amazing music, would you? It’s a DOS game, so of course Dosbox is the way to go. Other choices include the Playstation and Saturn versions, and even the Jaguar version if for some reason you have one around. One thing worth mentioning is that the difficulty is slightly different from consoles to PC, and I find the PS1 version the hardest overall. The game was ported to the GBA as a launch window title, and while it can’t quite compare to the original, it’s still pretty good for a GBA game, uses cartridge save, and the difficulty has been tweaked for younger audiences.

These are in the past though, let’s see the newer ones. Unfortunately, going forward, things get a bit more annoying: the DSiWare version, also downloadable on a 3DS, could be your first choice… but I really believe the even easier difficulty level is a let down. With 10 energy points and cages that almost appear by themselves, something is lost. Finally, GOG released it on their digital service, but beware: it’s Rayman Forever, rather than the original. Several music tracks were cut short in order to make space on the disc for some fan-made levels. Bad choice, since those levels are not very fun. Overall I’d suggest sticking with the PS1 version, which is available on the PSN. I mean, if you aren’t scared.


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