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Confessions of an FMV Addict
by Cliff "Funkadelic" O'Neill

In the early to mid '90s, Full Motion Video (FMV) was all the rage. Most CD-ROM-based games at the time incorporated FMV in some way, and many games consisted of it entirely. In fact, consoles like Genesis/Sega CD, 3DO, and CD-i featured a host of 'interactive movie' type "games," in which live-action footage would play and give players limited control over the action. As ashamed as I am to admit it, I enjoyed this type of interactive experience.

Whether it was shoot-'em-up action in the Wild West (Mad Dog McCree), cinematic martial-arts fighting (Supreme Warrior), or late-night voyeurism in a vampire-ridden cabin (Night Trap), I could not get enough FMV in my gaming diet. And thanks to companies such as Digital Pictures and American Laser Games, whose games were entirely FMV based, I got a steady supply of it. Surprisingly, even famed developers/publishers Capcom Entertainment and Electronic Arts got into the act, releasing interactive movies Fox Hunt and Psychic Detective, respectively, for the Sony PlayStation.

A rogue cowboy from
Mad Dog McCree

While most gamers loathed these types of games, I saw them as harmless (and mindless) entertainment, much like watching a B-movie. It's sad, but I played most of the American FMV-based games released throughout the years. Why? Because I really liked the visual realism FMV afforded, even though interactivity was, of course, limited. In addition, playing games that featured small-time celebs -- like Corey Haim and Deborah Harry, both of whom starred in Digital Pictures' Double Switch -- was neat and a refreshing change from the unrealistic, blotchy sprite-based graphics of the time.

How did my vile FMV obsession begin? Well, it was all thanks to a little arcade game called Dragon's Lair, released in 1983 and animated by the skillful hand of former Disney animator Don Bluth. Much like an interactive movie, Dragon's Lair was low on interaction but high on production value; its artwork and animation were (and still are) stunning, and the music and sound effects captivating. Since I was only about five years old when I first played Dragon's Lair, I was unaware of how limited its gameplay really was. Therefore, I believed the many deaths Dirk the Daring's faced at my hands were the result of my inexperience as a gamer, not my poor timing.

The bumbling hero of Dragon's Lair

Eventually I mastered Dragon's Lair's somewhat awkward gameplay and cruised through its creature-infested, trap-filled castle with authority. The lesson I ultimately learned from Dragon's Lair was that low interactivity does not necessarily mean low enjoyment. Indeed, Dragon's Lair was one heck of a ride...even if the player did not have much control of it. This is why I greeted FMV-based games with open arms in the '90s and sort of miss them today, a time of polygon-crunching 128-bit gaming. Ironically, a few of today's games, including Sega's ambitious Shenmue and Eidos Interactive's Bloody Sword of the Berserk, contain Dragon's Lair-like segments that serve to advance the story line.

Sure, I'm enjoying my Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 -- and, yes, the Metal Gear Solid 2 demo is amazing -- but I'm also enjoying the DVD versions of Dragon's Lair, Space Ace, and Hologram Time Traveler. Unfortunately, my favorite Digital Pictures and American Laser Game titles have not met the same fate, as they remain stuck in the CD-ROM age, where pixellated video greatly plagued the experience. Maybe someday these FMV-based games will be revived. Until then, I'm searching for a decently priced Sega CD to relive some good ol' memories -- but especially to play the resurrected Bug Blasters and Star Strike games (thank you, Good Deal Games)!

*Note: Good Deal Games did not in anyway pursuade Cliff to write the kinds words that he did at the ending of this article - though I must admit that it did help it get published ;-)

Be sure to visit
Cliff "Funkadelic" O'Neill's homepage! He has many great articles!


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