“Non-stop action. REAL video! Over 1 ½ hours!” Yeah, it’s not exactly the kind of thing that would be plastered on your average game box these days. It’s exactly the type of thing you’d see from some gimmicky ‘90s Sega CD game. Oh, wait, it is from a ‘90s Sega CD game? That’s right, folks. We’re here to talk about this obscure gem known as Night Trap.
While the whole world has sequestered themselves into their homes, we at LRM feel the best method to help keep a level of morale during these harsh times is to help people take their mind off the matter. So why not help pass the time with some suggestions for a nostalgic good time?
With that said, I would like to share with you a cult classic video game that came out back in the early ’90s that was not only a breakthrough in video game technology but quite a controversial discussion point. Come won’t you for a trip down memory lane and revisit a horror-based video game called Night Trap?
I remember when the game first came out on the Sega CD back in 1992. This was the first home video game console to store game data on a CD ROM drive versus cartridges, which Nintendo was still doing at the time. When my brothers and I had gotten both the game and console, we were literally hooked. Keep in mind, this was an era long before Xbox One, PS4, or any form of online gameplay. In 1992, this game was revolutionary. It was the first game to ever feature live-action cinematography, with real-life actors being integrated into a video game format.
This Is Night Trap
The best way to describe Night Trap is a combination of B-movie horror film and old-school novelty video games of the ‘90s. The gameplay involves the player having the ability to set off a series of hidden “traps” within a cabin. The goal was to help aid an unsuspecting group of best friends from assailants who lurk within the premises of the cabin. This whole weird setup is supported by the story, which involves an undercover agent named Kelly. Portrayed by the late Dana Plato, her mission is to covertly investigate the disappearances of teens at the Martin Family cabin. You, the player, work alongside her through the aid of hidden surveillance cameras throughout the house. With full access to the cameras, you can help set off the aforementioned traps to save the group of teens from peril.
In an era where pixel art was the style and limit of most consoles, Night Trap’s full videos really helped it stand out. This was all made possible thanks to Sega CD’s CD-ROM tech.
Upon its official release back in 1992, Night Trap became a commercial success with sales totaling to 400,000 copies being sold between the years 1992-1998. While Night Trap had achieved success in pushing the boundaries of video game technology, its core premise led to controversy. This turned into a senate hearing which eventually led to the creation of the ESRB rating system we all love and loathe today.
Night Trap Controversy
In time, the game itself had to be re-released. However, it had to have its ESRB rating attached in order to continue to be sold at retailers.
There certainly is no argument that Night Trap was intended to be marketed to a more mature audience based on the violent content. However, in hindsight, the violence within the game itself was not nearly as graphic as today’s games tend to be. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a game like Night Trap shouldn’t be rated T for Teen. However, I feel the level of violence it was being accused of exhibiting in its gameplay was not fully accurate.
As a fun and ironic side note, back when the game was first released, Howard Lincoln, senior vice president of Nintendo had some choice comments.
“I want to state that Night Trap will never appear on a Nintendo system. Obviously, it not pass our guidelines,” he said. Now, however, the game itself can be played in its entirety on the family-friendly Nintendo Switch.
Of course, I have fond memories of this thing because of when I originally played it. But it’s not just when I played it. It’s also because of how representative it is of media of the era. It falls right in line with countless other projects of its era. This includes Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The X-Files, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Goosebumps, Twin Peaks and the creator-owned comic book series Spawn. It goes without saying this was no doubt the very era in which birthed a new genre of visual aesthetic. To put it simply, back in the ‘70s everything was “groovy”, in the ‘80s everything was “rad”, and in the ‘90s everything was “grunge.” Night Trap falls squarely in the “grunge” category.
If you are someone who grew up back in the ‘90s, like me, and have otherwise missed out on playing a game such as Night Trap and are looking for a trip down memory lane, during this time of quarantine, you are certainly in luck! As it happens, the game just had a 25th-anniversary release back in 2017 and is now available for digital download across all platforms. In addition to the quality of footage being restored and gameplay being updated, there are also special features. Among them is never-before-seen footage of the making of the game itself and an in-depth interview with the director, and co-creator, of Night Trap James Riley.
Hope this finds you all, including your families and loved ones alike. Everyone here at LRM has compassion towards everyone during this time of crisis. Our hearts and prayers go out to those who have been directly affected. Be safe everyone and have a good weekend!
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