Naughty Dog’s Games Sure Were Terrible Before “Crash Bandicoot”
I’m currently playing 1992’s Rings of Power on the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis. And I am wondering how we went from that 16-bit disaster of a dog’s dinner to the Naughty Dog today. This studio is the powerhouse behind The Last of Us, and Uncharted. The studio that gave the PlayStation Crash Bandicoot as its unofficial mascot. The studio that’s now revered as amongst the greatest of its narrative-emphasising ilk.
Rings of Power is an isometric adventure which runs extremely poorly. Buc’s character stumbles between the overworld screen and closer-in environments. It is difficult to get into the quest without having the most severe headaches. It’s not helped by the discordant music – although it can be turned off – and the game’s completely unintuitive controls, including the awkward mapping of your d-pad and in-menu selections. These are all signs that the developer is still trying to find its mojo, its flow, and its identity. Naughty Dog was the developer behind many of the most popular PlayStation games since the mid-90s when Sony began to use consoles.
Plug Power into your SEGA Console and the first image that you’ll see is the Naughty dog logo. This logo was created in 1992 by Naughty Dog, which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the 2021 pawprint design. It’s fascinating, I think. You’ll be taken on a fantasy adventure with knights and sorcerers, magic rods, evil Gods, and all-important rings that must be recovered to stop all the bad stuff from happening. This is all relatively standard and unremarkable. It’s easy to see why the game would be more enjoyable if you used a mouse to point at Buc’s desired location instead of the Mega Drive controller’s complicated interface. Rings of Power was initially developed for the Commodore Amiga and PCs.
Rings of Power is Naughty Dog’s second published game by Electronic Arts. Keef, The Thief was the first game released by Naughty Dog under the JAM Software brand. It was a graphic adventure for Apple IIGS and MS-DOS that was released in 1989. It is similar to Rings of Power but has a fantasy theme. However, it’s much easier to use a mouse to navigate the cursor. From action commands (like “talk,” “buy,” etc.) to directional movements such as North, South and East, you can also use a mouse to navigate. Folk will also laugh at Keef if you make him jump up or down. It’s not as good as Rings and Power. Although the writing is lighthearted, it fails to deliver any memorable humour. The whole point of the game to steal as much from Mercon as possible just doesn’t feel compelling. It’s a bit minnow among a sea of first-person adventures with better visuals and bolder plotlines like 1991’s Eye of the Beholder.
Although it’s easy for people to say that these games have been beaten by time, many of the other games from the 1980s and early 1990s (and before) still hold up well in modern times. These…these two are not. They are both essential for what they represent. Keep being the first game to use the Naughty dog name; co-founders Andy Gavin, Jason Rubin, deciding to give it a new moniker to symbolize a fresh start; Rings of Power being the first Naughty dog game to be released for a console, even though it wasn’t intended to. Let’s dive in, shall we?
Electronic Arts – EA had a problematic relationship with SEGA 30 years ago. You’ll be able to tell the difference between the EA cartridges and the SEGA ones if you have ever played an EA title on the Mega Drive/Genesis like a Madden game or FIFA International Soccer. The carts were longer and had a yellow logo on the left. They were reverse-engineered so EA could avoid paying a licensing fee of up to ten bucks per cartridge. SEGA eventually, however, permitted them to use its 16-bit system. This was allegedly due to EA’s fear of others sharing its reverse engineering knowledge. EA wasn’t the only one to develop their Mega Drive carts. Codemasters and Accolade also used their designs. In 1992, the former publisher went to court with SEGA to get the right to use their carts. Accolade won after an appeal. But that’s another story and a whole different history – back at Naughty Dog.
EA released Rings of Power in 1991. Both Populous, as well as James Pond Underwater Agent, received favourable reviews. Gavin and Rubin saw EA’s reverse engineering tricks while visiting their offices. They asked about releasing the new title on SEGA consoles. EA accepted the deal, and it was signed. However, Rubin later admitted that this was a mistake by Naughty Dog. He told IGN that “it should have been on a PC game” in 2013. It should have been.