Ratchet & Clank: Back To The Beginning

London, let’s go back to the beginning!” – Cheryl from Girls Aloud Out Of Control: Live From The O2 2009 DVD before the “Sound Of The Underground” live performance

The Ratchet & Clank series have come a long way since Ratchet & Clank in 2002.

We all have a particular video game that catapulted us into the first foray of any series. For example, Crash Bandicoot (not Super Mario 64 and the Nintendo 64, mind you) marks my first foray into the Crash Bandicoot series and video games in general. Thus, it turns out the PlayStation 1 (otherwise known as PSOne or PSX back in the good old days) is my first ever console according to Power Up! Manchester 2017 at the Museum of Science and Industry. In light of the upcoming 15th anniversary of the Ratchet & Clank series, I decided to reveal how I got hooked on it in the first place as well as discussing about the first Ratchet & Clank game I purchased, played and owned, Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded (also known as Ratchet & Clank 2: Going Commando in the US).

It all started back in Thursday 21st August 2014 at 7:52pm when a former friend and I were engaged in a private conversation on Facebook. We talked about all kinds of things ranging from video games to our interests and it seemed to last for hours on end until he introduces me to the Ratchet & Clank series, in spite of I already know of its existence years ago. From what I can vaguely remember, what intrigued me is he told me the series is a “spiritual successor” to the Spyro The Dragon franchise. At first, I’m still stubbornly hesitant to try out the series but when he informed me that platforming is the meat of the aforementioned series, that’s when I eventually surrendered and made the decision to give it a try.

Flashback to Saturday 11th October 2014, me and my former long-time best friend attended Play Expo Manchester which marks as the first Play Expo we’ve experienced. Back when I dressed up as a hippie and my former life-long best friend cosplayed as a character from Attack On Titan. I didn’t understand the aspect of cosplay, despite I knew about it years ago. During our time at the convention, we attended a talk about Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty, we met a few members of the developing team behind Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty, Just Add Water Ltd., I had my pictures taken with them and getting their autographs, I tried out a demo of Oddworld: New ‘N’ Tasty on the PlayStation 4 (it’s an old model at the time), we watched the cosplay masquerade, we stumbled across and took photos of cosplayers, we visited GamesYouLoved’s stall (that’s before I joined their writing team at the time), we stopped by at the other stalls such as the Video Game Carnival and so forth until we eventually come across one of the retro video game stalls. As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a copy of Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded and bought it. Little did I know I didn’t know what I’m getting myself into? And from that point on, the rest is history.

Believe it or not, an innumerable amount of years ago, I’m actually aware of the series but that’s when I weren’t interested in it. In fact, the third-person shooting gameplay have utterly put me off the entire series for numberless amount of years… until 2014.

I still regret judging the series for many years back then as well as not knowing about it in 2002 since it’s completely overshadowed by Girls Aloud and the like at the time while I’m still in high school. If only I’m aware of the series beforehand all these years ago… I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though, it would’ve made my life even more interesting if I grew up with the series along with Girls Aloud, Sugababes, S Club 7, Rachel Stevens, Crash Bandicoot, classic Spyro, Tomb Raider, old-school Cartoon Network, Blue (not to be confused with the name of the colour Blue) etc during my teenage years. Looking back, I realised I took the early and mid 2000’s for granted.

After all these years of dismissing this series and not giving it a second chance without a second thought back then made me fail to realise how undeniably cute and cuddly Ratchet is, despite his previous unlikeable personality in the first game and how unkind and mean he is towards Clank sometimes in Ratchet & Clank: Size Matters and Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction. I find it unique to find a protagonist who isn’t always a goodie two-shoes, coupled with a bitter, selfish, self-centred, arrogant, street-smart and smart-mouthed personality traits when it comes to the first game as far as the original series is concerned, excluding the 2016 re-imagining.

Becoming fascinated and admittedly, borderline, obsessed with the Ratchet & Clank series have opened doors to new possibilities, led to me expanding my horizons by playing other non-Nintendo platforming games, giving other things a second chance such as potatoes (coincidentally, I tried potatoes in the same year as I’ve eventually given the Ratchet & Clank franchise a second chance), a brand-new pastime in the form of stargazing and slowly warming up to some video game genres and video games such as Hyper Sentinel for instance but at the cost of starting to grow out of/move on from Nintendo, Mario, Kirby and Animal Crossing series (that’s an upcoming article for another time in the near future). The instant I become interested in a “new” video game franchise, there comes a sacrifice. Therefore, it’s becoming more apparent when I play PlayStation games (mainly platformers seeing as they are still my bread and butter sine 1996) more times than I play Nintendo games and consoles nowadays. In other words, I prioritise PlayStation more than Nintendo these days. I simply don’t like Nintendo as much as I used to. It happened with the Pokémon franchise back in the 90’s during the time when I played Pokémon Gold on my Game Boy Colour back in the day and it will be a matter of time before the same thing will happen to Nintendo as a whole. Although, it took years and years of baby steps to finally realise that maybe trying out new and different things isn’t such a bad thing after all. Not only that but I also come to the realisation that I’ve might have missed out on a lot of stuff throughout the previous and recent years.

Thanks to the Ratchet & Clank series, I secretly harboured a trigger finger but not to the extent where I’m going to try out the… (retch)… Call of Duty series and the Destiny video games. And no, I don’t plan on checking them out whatsoever under no circumstances. The same can be said about The Legend of Spyro trilogy, ****landers (it’s extremely difficult to mention the “Skylanders” name without cursing it. It goes to show how much I loathed the franchise with every fibre of my being.), Snake Pass (in my opinion, I still reckon it’s not a platforming video game) and modern, generic and overrated AAA shooting games and open-world video games and nitty and gritty video games, complete with an excessive amount of blood and gore, to name a few. They’re SO not my cup of tea.

One of the memories I’ve recall is the weird glitches that plagued the game. They tend to happen at the most unpredictable times and they normally occur by accident when I least expect it. Some are more laugh-out-loud hilarious than others. For instance, when I’m at Silver City in Planet Boldan, I was so engrossed in lighting the Thugs-4-Less mercenaries up with my high-tech, futuristic weapons I didn’t notice I shot at one of the mercs, causing him to be pushed and edging him further and further into a transparent fence. No matter what I do and how hard I try, I can’t seem to do him in so I have no choice but to leave him where he is. It took me a while to become aware of what I’ve done and the instant I spotted him standing behind the barrier-like fence, it didn’t take me long to burst into laughter. Oh well, sucks for him that he can’t shoot at me now.

The other comical memory is within the first cutscene while Abercrombie Fizzwidget informs Ratchet of his commando training and conditioning duties and tasks which includes ballroom dancing, the slideshow presents me with a black and white picture of Ratchet dressed to the nines, clothed top to bottom in formal wear and Clank all dolled up in a dress whilst they’re dancing. I can’t unsee that slideshow photo ever since.

Speaking of the cutscenes, I’m unaware of the change in Ratchet’s voice until I played the first Ratchet & Clank (not to be confused with the 2016 re-imagining which shared the same title as the abovementioned first game) game and found out Mikey Kelley (he returned to the Ratchet & Clank series to provide his voice for the Starship Phoenix II’s artificial intelligence in Ratchet & Clank: Q-Force. The voice sounds like a teenage male’s voice, kind of almost identical to Ratchet’s old voice) is Ratchet’s original voice actor and his successor, James Arnold Taylor, have been Ratchet’s voice actor since this game until present and beyond.

 

My favourite weapons are the Gravity Bomb, Mini Nuke, Minirocket Tube, Megarocket Cannon, Shield Charger, Tesla Barrier, Plasma Coil and Plasma Storm.

My favourite music tracks from the soundtrack are “Aranos – Flying Lab”, “Oozla – The Swamp Monster”, “Wupash Nebula”, “Felzin System – Thug Rendezvous”, “Dobbo Orbit – Giant Clank Battle”, “Todano – Megacorp Armoury”, “Todano – Megacorp Armoury Interior”, “Boldan – Silver City”, “Boldan – Surfing the Electric Cables”, “Gorn – Thugs-4-Less Fleet” and “Yeedil – Megacorp HQ”.

My favorite level out of all of the levels in the game hands down is Silver City in Planet Boldan but mainly because of the music track. It blew me away and caught me off guard when I listened to the music track for the first time. I couldn’t help myself but bop along in rhythm to the music on the bed in my bedroom. It sounds like the kind of music you hear and rave to at a nightclub. I still dance along to it these days whenever I listen to it on my smartphone. Furthermore, it’s one of my top ten favorite music tracks from the entire series and it’s definitely in the top three.

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Ever since I played this game in 2014, I fell in love with the universe filled to the brim with the various fictional alien species and sentient robots, unique planets and galaxies. They felt like believable locations and there are times when I stop what I’m doing solely to dart my eyes around my surroundings or take photos of them. Speaking of the characters, my favorite character is Ratchet obviously and Orvus (Clank’s birth father) from Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time (otherwise known as Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time) but mainly because he’s voiced by Charles Martinet, Mario’s voice actor and one of my favorite voice actors of all time.

Regarding Ratchet, he’s my favourite character due to his irresistibly adorable appearance, his physical feline appearance, his yellow-golden fur and brown-striped tail ending with a tuft of fluff (which is similar to a lion’s tail) makes me want to hug, cuddle, snuggle, stroke or pet him like a household cat, I’m a cat person and his personality is nearly identical to mine and believe it or not, I almost share the same height with him according to a character height chart (hence the reason why Ratchet & Clank is the perfect cosplay for me). Heck, his cat-like cuteness rivals Kirby’s adorableness. As a result, he’s my current favourite video game hero and fictional alien.

Just like the original first game, I loved how Ratchet and Clank play off of each other as if the cutscenes are anything to go by. Ratchet is impulsive, cocky, arrogant, stubborn, sometimes selfish and self-centred, reckless, a loose cannon, irresponsible, careless and occasionally immature but at the same time, he’s likeable, caring, friendly, helpful, “smart as they come”, a shoot first and ask questions later kind of guy and he’s quick-witted while Clank is the voice of reason, a politely-spoken robot, he possesses gentleman mannerisms and the brainiac of the duo in terms of their personalities. The cutscenes are entertaining, witty and side-splittingly hilarious enough to make my eyes water from laughing so much at high volume, complete with a well-written script. Although, the adult jokes flew over my head since I still have a lot of growing up to do and I’m still naive, regardless of the fact I’m a young adult. Along with the cutscenes, they are accompanied with plot twists, turns and surprises at every turn for example Abercrombie Fizzwidget revealing himself as Captain Qwark who is the mastermind behind the Megacorp conspiracy which is something I didn’t see coming. Ratchet, Clank and Angela Cross’ reactions pretty summed up my own reaction.

I find Ratchet and Clank’s bromance endearing and it’s something I used to relate to, back when my former best mate and I were best friends for slightly over ten years. Not only that but I occasionally call her “my Clank” and refer her as “the Clank to my Ratchet” seeing as I almost share the same personalities with him and her personality is nearly equivalent to Clank’s due to her mathematic skills knows no bounds. We were so incredibly close until it gets to the point where we linked arms sometimes, similar to Anna and Elsa as presented in the Disney’s Frozen Nintendo 3DS theme. It’s like as if nothing could tear us apart. Just like Ratchet and Clank, we used to do everything together, keep one another’s secrets, tell each other secrets, help each other and we used to have each other’s backs. Though, Ratchet and Clank have each other’s backs, both literally and metaphorically. I guess friendship actually means forming a relationship with someone rather than establishing a friendship and maintaining it for years. These days, it’s going to be tough to find a real-life close friend just like her. The closest I have to best friends are the pair of friends I befriended on Fanfiction.net and a really good pal of mine I met on deviantART. Looking back, it’s bittersweet.

Similar to Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door, Ratchet & Clank 2: Locked and Loaded improved everything that is already established in its predecessor, Ratchet & Clank, in every way possible and introduced strafing which is what Jak 2: Renegade and Jak 3 lacked. In addition, Nanotech and the weapons are now upgradeable. To top it all off, the game brought a lot of new things to the table such as gladiator arenas, brand-new futuristic weapons, the introduction to space-age armour, spaceship upgrades, gun modifications, space dogfight battles and starship challenges and so forth. In short, new galaxy means new characters, planets, locales, enemies, villains and antagonists, arenas and the list goes on.

Not going to lie, whenever I think of Ratchet & Clank, I also think of Girls Aloud and vise versa, most likely due to both the Ratchet & Clank franchise and one of my favourite girl bands of all time exist at roughly around the same date: November 2002. I realised this numerous years later in the recent past after gathering a lot of research and putting two and two together.

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These days, Insomniac Games is teaming up with Esc-Toy Ltd. and Erick Scarecrow (according to his Twitter webpage) to release statues of Ratchet and Clank to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Ratchet & Clank series. Just recently, Insomniac Games joins forces with Sony Interactive Entertainment (formerly known as Sony Computer Entertainment) and Dark Horse Comics to release an Art of Ratchet & Clank art book, packed with concept art and artwork showcasing a collection of quirky characters, otherworldly planets, exotic locations, space-age weapons, hi-tech, futuristic gadgets etc as well as chronicling all 11 Ratchet & Clank games thus far. It’s a no brainer the statues and the aforementioned art book are must-haves for die-hard Ratchet & Clank fanatics or fans in general. https://www.darkhorse.com/Blog/2573/explore-galaxy-ratchet-and-clank

On the side note, my Ratchet & Clank cosplay will have its last hurrah at the forthcoming Play Expo Manchester video game convention in October, Manchester Gamers Unite gamers & game developers Halloween Night at the Dive NQ bar (hosted by Manchester Gamers Unite) and Manchester Christmas Minicon! (hosted by Manchester Anime Con and Animeleague Cosplay) this year before I move on to my next cosplay next year. Now don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love the Ratchet & Clank series as much as the next fan but I don’t fancy wearing said cosplay three years in a row. And this is coming from someone who hates change with a burning passion.

In conclusion, judging by the sales figures and the fact Ratchet & Clank (2016) immediately shot straight to the top of the UK video game charts in record time back in 22nd April 2016 (delivering Star Fox Zero a humiliating defeat in the process as it shares the same fate as Little Mix’s “Hair” song: 6th place. Yep! I still remember this day very well.) and it’s the fastest-selling instalment of the aforesaid series beating the former holder, Ratchet & Clank: A Crack In Time, the franchise is here to stay for maybe countless years to come. Hopefully, the franchise won’t pull a Girls Aloud (in other words, returning with a long-awaited, highly-anticipated comeback and then up and leave again) in the future if you know what I mean.