Welcome to The Gaming Vault of Fame, where we take a look at some of the accomplishments of the video game world’s lesser known heroes. You know the ones I mean: those who rarely hog the spotlight for themselves, merely pleased with starring in a few games and then fading into obscurity.
This series of articles will be to honour those heroes. Last month we examined Luigi, one of gaming’s most famous second fiddles. Today we’ll be looking at a hero who’s also become something of a second fiddle, in the series he used to star in no less: Rayman.
Rayman is the brainchild of Michel Ancel, of Beyond Good and Evil fame. Rayman debuted in 1995 on the Sony PlayStation, later to be ported to the Atari Jaguar, Sega Saturn and PCs. Rayman is a strange limbless individual of unknown origins, fighting to save the Glade of Dreams from various antagonists. You really wouldn’t know that if you only know him from his later games. But let’s take a look at his origins.
The first game in the series was a simple 2D platformer in which Rayman had to fight the evil sorcerer Mister Dark, who had stolen the Great Protoon and imprisoning all the Electoons. If this sounds strange to you, we’ve barely scratched the surface. This is a Michel Ancel game, after all, but it all makes sense in context.
Both Rayman and Mr. Dark’s backgrounds are shrouded in mystery. Supposedly Rayman was found on a beach by a group of fishermen. Mr. Dark, on the other hand, is merely talented and evil. Within the context of the games Rayman is believed to be a “chosen one” selected by the gods to rid all worlds of evil. This would make sense as each game in the series are seemingly unconnected to each other, at least as far as setting goes. Rayman’s adventures have taken place in everything from Rayman’s home world to an eventual analogue of Earth itself.
While many video game heroes of the 80’s and 90’s preferred either jumping on their enemies or shooting them in the face, Rayman seemed to be a fan of some good old fisticuffs. His basic attack is winding up his fists and throwing them at his enemies. Being a limbless – but not hand and feetless – hero has its perks, it seems. Rayman can also use his braids to glide and hover long distances by spinning them around like the blades on a helicopter. Later games in the series offered him even more abilities like turning his fists into missiles, the ability to fire glowing balls of energy and fly with his hair.
The second game in the series took a turn towards darker and edgier, but still being wacky and cartoony. How could it not be with a protagonist with a purple shirt and no arms? Rayman 2 was received very well by both fans and critics and still holds a rating of 90/100 on Metacritic. Not bad for an 11 year old game.
Since then the series has stuck to its platforming roots with the exceptions of the odd spin-off game here and there. Rayman has always been characterised as a witty and energetic character who leaps into danger in order to save his friends. Despite being labelled as a “chosen one”, Rayman’s spirits would never dampen, remaining very laid back and easygoing throughout his adventures.
For a while it seemed like Rayman would become Ubisoft’s answer to Mario, becoming the company’s mascot. While he’s been a star for quite some time, even having a trope named after him, Ubisoft seems to have almost abandoned the character. The last “true” Rayman game (not a remake or a port) was released in early 2005, after which Rayman was spun-off into several mini-game compilation that slowly, but surely, pushed him into the periphery of his own franchise.
During some time off in between adventures, Rayman and some Globox kids are having a lovely picnic, which is quickly interrupted by an earthquake. The Globox children sink into the grounds and in their place appear three Rabbids, in essence alien rabbits on speed with a touch of AD/HD. Rayman is locked in a cell and forced to participate in the Rabbids’ strange trials and win plungers in order to escape.
Initially a traditional platforming game Rayman Raving Rabbids eventually became a collection of minigames and was released as a launch title for the Nintendo Wii which used the new system’s Wiimote to great effect. Players had to do everything from literally drawing food, racing warthogs, shaking their booty and launching cows into the air. The mini games were a lot of fun and garnered three sequels, with a forth on the way, yet the spin-off series deviated immensely from the “proper” Rayman formula.
Dancing with the Rabbibs was fun, but not a “true” Rayman game
As the Rabbids rose in popularity Rayman’s billing eventually faded, with the forth game in the series not even featuring the character, making the Rabbids into a typical squad of spotlight stealers. However, all hope is not lost for the Rayman fans. In an interview with IGN, the creative director of Rabbids Go Home, Jacques Exertier promised that Rayman would “be back for more imaginative and fantastic adventures on his own”, yet promised nothing else.
Rumours have been circulating for quite a while, speculating in an upcoming Rayman 4 yet no news have surfaced. As of March 1st, 2010 Rayman 2 was released for the iPhone, the fourth remake of that game. Rayman 1 has been available on the UK PS Store since May 2008, and a DSi remake has been available since December 25, 2009.
Despite his spotlight recently being stolen by the Rabbids Rayman still remains a compelling and fun character. In a time when angsting teenagers are asking “why me?”, and growling space marines are curb stomping aliens while using swear words in the same way some of use punctuation, we could use a guy like Rayman to simply shrug his shoulders and remain happy and upbeat in the face of danger. Rayman is a guy you can count on, someone who’s kind, dependable and heroic all at once. And we are happy to include him in the Gaming Vault of Fame.