Looking Back: Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus

  • Name: Sly Raccoon
  • Also Known As: Phantom Thief Sly Cooper (Japan), Sly Racoon (EUR)
  • Platforms: PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita
  • Developer: Sucker Punch Productions
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • Originally Released: September 23, 2002

First arriving in 2002, Sly Cooper is hailed as one of the great PlayStation 2 mascots. The question is, was the original deserving of such an honored title?

Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus follows the story of Sly Cooper, a young thief whose ancestors were all master thieves in their day. All of Sly’s ancestors kept a record of their abilities and adventures in a book called the Thievius Raccoonus, which can only be read by members of the Cooper family. When Sly was a young boy, his parents were killed by the Fiendish Five, an organization of villains led by Clockwerk, and they each took a section of the Thievius Raccoonus with them. Sly was put into an orphanage, where he befriended Bentley the Turtle and Murray the Hippo. Now Sly and his Gang are on a mission to retrieve the Thievius Raccoonus and avenge the Cooper name.

The game takes place in five hub worlds, each with their own set of levels. The hub worlds are themed after different parts of the Earth and are led by a member of the Fiendish Five. Players must guide Sly through to the end of each level to progress to the final level and continue on to the next hub world.

The levels are generally about the right length, although they do vary a fair amount. Of course the length also depends on the skill of the player. If you are new to the franchise, it takes some time to get used to it. On the other hand, once you do get used to it, it loses some difficulty. For reference, I completed this game to 100% in 45 hours. That’s not 45 hours of playtime, but from putting the disc in the drive to finishing it, including sleep.

Heavily encouraging stealth gameplay in a platformer was a really good move here. I thought the game would incredibly linear. Although the paths are set, the skill you need to progress through the game and the exploration required to find the path is nice and open for the most part. Players won’t have a fun time if they mess up, because you only need to be hit once to die. The only way around this is to have a magnet with you. You find these in secret areas and by collecting 100 coins. The magnets allow you to take one hit without being damaged, so if you have 2 magnets, you have to be damaged 3 times to die. Health being so scarce, players need to take extreme caution, but the meticulous planning and skill needed is somewhat offset by the magnets, so the game isn’t overly difficult.

The objectives of the levels are not only to reach the end. In every level, there are a bottles to find. They are not very hidden, but there can be as many as 40 in a level. These bottles are given to Bentley, who deciphers their clues and gives a 3-digit code to Sly. If players find the vault in the level and enter the correct code, they will be rewarded with a page from the Thievius Raccoonus, explaining a new ability from one of Sly’s ancestors. Although it is not required to find any of these throughout the entire game, players are encouraged to so they can have new moves for the later levels. Some of the abilities aren’t even useful for making the game easier – such as the slow motion ability, which just makes players look cool as they perform crazy jumps with Sly – but they’re nice bonuses.

The graphics are very nice for a PS2 game from 2002. Though objects have jagged edges due to a low polygon count, the worlds have a lot of depth to them and the whole game has a slight steampunk vibe to it. The characters look fantastic, especially Sly Cooper with his huge bright eyes. The cutscenes are 2D cinematics that show off the story in a great visual way, and offer really nice looks into the antagonist’s past. The sound design is a bit better than the graphics. My favorite, when Sly is shimmying around corners and such, is the tiptoe sound effect that the game emphasizes and sounds phenomenal. The entire soundtrack, composed by Ashif Hakik, is fantastic all together.

In the end, Sly Cooper was an excellent title that is well deserving of a spot next to other giants of the PlayStation 2. Sly Cooper can still be played today with The Sly Trilogy (PS3), which includes the first three games in the franchise!

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