Sly Cooper is without a doubt one of the best games series I have ever played. It constantly tried to do things new and expand the universe in many colorful ways. And while a new game may seem like a good idea with its movie supposedly scheduled for 2016, it’s still without definitive plans to continue, so why not take a look.
The first game, Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was released for the Playstation 2 in 2002. The game had a very simple design and a simple concept, but what they ended up doing with it made it work in a way no one imagined.
The premise is a raccoon that’s a thief (because they look like they wear masks, get it?) named Sly who wants to recover the book his ancestors created detailing all of their secrets. This book being the titular Theivius Raccoonous. The book was taken by a gang known as “The Fiendish Five”. Along the way to help him are Bentley the turtle, the tech guy, and Murray the hippo, the driver. You were also on the run in each stage from Sly’s police pursuer/love interest, Inspector Carmalita Fox (whose accent changes in each game). The game’s sense of humor and dramatic storytelling keep it from being too serious but also too grim, finding the perfect sweet spot for a thrilling story of revenge and growth. Especially with an amazing final villain like Clockwerk, an immortal mechanized owl surviving solely on jealousy and hatred.
The gameplay was very simplistic. Sly could use his cane to hook onto objects as well as smash enemies and boxes holding loot. There was also a large focus on stealth as well, having Sly avoiding spotlights whenever possible as well as avoiding enemies that could only see you if you walked into their flashlight. However, what a lot of people found to be irritating was the one-hit kills from all enemies. Sly could pick up a lucky-charm that could let him take one or two shots, but that was the limit, frustrating quite a few fans. Another source of frustration were the turret and driving mini-games that were often brutal and unforgiving.
However, the game managed to fix a lot of its problems with its sequel, which is often heralded as one of the best Playstation 2 games of all time.
Sly 2 was released on the Playstation 2 in 2004. The game centered around trying to collect pieces of Clockwerk that were stolen by a new gang known as “The Klaww Gang”. Each stage centered around getting a piece or two back, and seeing how each gang member was using them, often in inventive ways (this was seen in using the tail-feathers to print money or the lungs to help fuel a train indefinitely).
Although now, Sly wasn’t the only one out in the field. Now you could play as Bentley and Murray, who both grow as characters the more you play them. Bentley is not as strong as Sly but much more technical and gadget based. Murray on the other hand isn’t as quick or maneuverable but more than makes up for it in brute strength. The game also has a health bar, no longer being limited to one hit kills.
The bosses may overstay their welcome however, as many of them aren’t limited to just one stage. It works for darker characters like The Contessa, but for the forgettable Rajan it just feels like padding.
While the story went much more in-depth in terms of character and villains, it still has too many holes in the armor to be truly amazing. Thankfully, the next game in the series manages to keep things concise with even MORE characters.
Sly 3 came out for the Playstation 2 a year after Sly2, in 2005. The story picks up a little after the last one ended. Bentley is now in a wheelchair, Murray has gone off to seek redemption as he feels responsible for Bentley’s condition, and Sly is trying to bring his friends back together and claim his birthright: a vault of loot hidden by his ancestors on a remote island.
The game is even more character-driven than the last. Instead of trying to take down each member of a gang, each level is about trying to persuade different expert thieves to join Sly and the gang take the vault back from Dr. M, the “tech guy” character from Sly’s father’s previous gang and the series’s most interesting villain yet, sans Clockwerk.
The game also includes a lot of new characters that are added to the gang such as an Australian koala guru, a mouse technician, and even a few old enemies have come onto the gang’s side. Those being Dimitri from Sly 2 and the Panda King from Sly 1, who brings much more sympathy as all he wants is to redeem himself for what he has done and save his daughter. These additions help to foster new interactions and help the group feel more dynamic with its mix of colorful characters.
The gameplay this time around is very similar to Sly 2, however, now Carmelita is also playable, as well as many more mini-games involving the already seen hacking and helicopter/turret stages, but also new ones such as bi-planes and pirate ship battles. This game helped to trim the fat of the last game and make the experience even better. The same was attempted by its sequel many years later, although that unfortunately didn’t live up to expectations.
Sly Cooper Thieves in Time came out for the Playstation 3 in 2013. The game was green-lit after Sanzaru Games took the previous three games and remastered them for the Playstation 3. With Sucker Punch more focused on making the Infamous series, Sanzaru Games was given the reins on the long-awaited sequel.
The story has Sly and the others going throughout time to save his ancestors, as parts of the Thievius Racconous have been disappearing. Determined to find out what’s going on, Bentley makes a time machine out of the van and they set off to different time periods such as feudal japan, the medieval times, the old west, and even the ice-age.
The game had gameplay slightly updated and easier to pick-up, but not enough to be totally foreign to fans of the old series. Also, playing as each of Sly’s ancestors feels welcome and very fun to play, especially Ser Galleth Cooper, the best ancestor in my opinion. However the story seems to fail on building any excitement for the conclusion, especially with a lackluster main villain whose less interesting than his lieutenants. Another strike against it is that it has established characters change personalities out of nowhere (cough Penelope cough cough)
The game also didn’t sell as well as once hoped. With that being a factor, the cliffhanger ending seems like it won’t be fulfilled anytime soon. However, with the movie coming out presumably sometime this year, the attention it could get may warrant a return of the master thief in the near future.