Remembering the Classics: South Park

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It’s amazing how much of a cultural phenomenon South Park has become. When the show first premiered back in 1997, it was produced entirely with cutout and stop motion animation. Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker ended up using hundreds of construction paper cutouts to create this world popularized by the foulest people imaginable. They even voiced the majority of the characters too. Now, 16 years later, the show has just started its 17th Season and it is one of the most popular shows in history. During this nearly two decade span of time, the show has spawned a full length feature film (which got an Academy Award nomination for Best Music, Original Song) and even a whole plethora of video games. The newest game based within this universe is South Park: The Stick of Truth which has been in the news for a while but only recently got an official release date. On December 10th in North America and December 12th abroad, you will be able to create your own South Park character and embark on a mystical journey through the this quiet little Colorado town. It’s a role playing game, which makes sense based on the countless fantasy themed episodes that exist now, but the South Park video game franchise initially started with a first-person shooter (FPS) title. It is this very title that is the subject of this week’s Remembering the Classics.

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The first South Park game ever was simply titled South Park, and it was a first person shooter developed by Iguana Entertainment and Appaloosa Interactive. Never heard of those companies before? Yeah there’s a reason for that. The game first came out on December 12, 1998 (a little more than a year after the show premiered), and you can choose any of the four main characters to play as. The story is that a comet is rapidly approaching Earth and its causing all sorts of evil to invade the town including deformed clones and those famous gray aliens. It is up to Stan, Kyle, Cartman, and Kenny to use whatever crude weapons they have at their disposal to combat this evil within their town. It is an FPS and weapons include a cow-launcher, snowballs/yellow snowballs, and an alien device, among a few others. There was also a head-to-head multiplayer mode as well.

It’s amazing to me how quickly a game based on South Park was even made. The show was only in the midst of its Second Season and already a game was being pushed out to the market. Because of this, the game only featured the very original South Park characters and events. It only had about a season and half worth of content to work with after all. Yet despite this, a full game was created filled with profanity and absurdity. It’s everything you would expect from a South Park game, but it ended up receiving mixed to negative reviews. The graphics left much to be desired, the voice acting got repetitive, and the idea of an FPS within the South Park world simply didn’t make sense. It really has gone down in history as a great example of a video game trying to capitalize on the early popularity of a license without actually having the content to back it up.

South Park: The Stick of Truth is a completely different story. There have been four games released between the original FPS to this upcoming RPG but none have received so much attention as this one. This new game is developed by THQ (now Ubisoft due to THQ’s bankruptcy), Obsidian Entertainment, and South Park Digital Studios. There is an incredible amount of source material available for this title and it’s obvious that everyone involved is mining this entire history for content. It even looks and sounds exactly like a regular episode of South Park which is naturally a huge appeal for the millions of fans. It has both the look and feel of the perfect South Park game.

I have never owned the original South Park video game but I did have a neighbor who was able to get it. I thought this was the coolest thing in the world because I was way too young to even watch South Park. Not many parents should let their 7 year olds watch this program after all. Playing this poorly created game was the closest thing I had to actually experiencing the show which I heard so many great things about. It was probably because it was a “forbidden title” that made playing it so enjoyable for me. Now I just look back and it and laugh at what it tried to accomplish.

There is a sort of unwritten rule that video games based on movies or TV shows are usually pretty freaking terrible. Most are a shameless cash grab after all. For many, this was exactly what the original South Park was. The Stick of Truth couldn’t be any more different, and has the legitimate chance of being that rare title based on something else that is actually a lot of fun to play. I am genuinely excited for this new South Park installment and will probably pick it up, if only to enjoy all the jokes that will naturally be tributes to this series. Lets hope the ever talented Stone and Parker can pull this off, and we’ll just have to see for ourselves this December.