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Missing Mascots: James Pond

Why has James Pond been chosen today? A character that many may say isn’t even worth the bandwidth this article is hosted on. A simple one note joke of name with an even worse plot copied from the Ian Fleming novels. He’s forgotten. His tried revival on the GBA/DS was a floppy fish. Why try the whole humanoid-fish thing again? We all remember Fish Police don’t we? (No? Well, three episodes at a crappy time slot will do that) Why bother?

Exactly!

Millennium (Moonshine Racers, Rome AD), from the other side of the pond (get it!), was one of many small developers who had some success before, but was now ready for the next generation of gaming; and one of the many who was published by EA, before EA really started developing on their own. Pond started out on the computers of the late ’80s; his debut being on the Amiga. James Pond: Underwater Agent became a big enough hit that it was soon ported to the other systems of the day, including the Genesis.

Unfortunately, he was mostly lost in the shuffle among the other mascots of the day. Not because his character was bland (Secret Agent Fish), but the type of game that Pond really was just didn’t fit. In the late ’80s, platforming puzzlers may have been fine for a computer, but when compared to the other games of the time, it may have just been to slow. Almost a case of right game, wrong time. Even though it may have even had trouble if it was released a bit earlier, on systems like the NES. But unlike other games at the time, James had two sequels, and even his own spin-off game (the Aquatic Games). Not many other characters of the era can say that.

James was a top member of F.I.5.H, a secret British agency run by various marine life. As a top member, James was been sent to oceans deep and skies so high, to the north pole in a robotic suit, and even to the moon. In his off-time, he competes in the Aquatic Games, along with the Aquabats.

It may not have been a very deep (or original) story, but that wasn’t really needed. The main idea of the game was to solve the games puzzles (mostly, find the bomb, or find the key). Like many other games, even if the character was interesting, the game play needed to be worth playing, enough to use word of mouth as cheap advertising. Many gamers went into the series expecting a fun platforming game with a spy theme. Instead, you get a platforming puzzler in the same vein of games like Puggsy. This seems to have turned away more people than it brought in.

Other gamers that I’ve talked too basically say the same thing. They saw the cool outer shell of the game, with the Bond-like characters and the music and thought it’d be a fun, cartoony platformer. Instead they couldn’t figure out what to do in most parts, as the objectives weren’t always clear. They stopped when they realized that bubbles were your weapon of choice. With other the proper advertising, many were confused, and ultimately gave up. Simply put, if the character holds a gun on the cover, have him use it in the GAME!

Despite all this, Millennium had created a fun puzzle game with some platforming elements. Today it can be recognized as a game that can actually be pretty fun once you learn what you’re doing. Many now call the series classic (maybe except for part III). Especially the second in the series: Robocod. This was the game chosen to be on the GBA last year, but it doesn’t seem to have done very well. Although this is a missing mascot’s article, it seems that the little guy never left. Robocod has also been seen on PS1 with upgraded graphics and a shovelware version was released on PS2 and even on the DS, along with a somewhat useless game map.

We will probably never see a brand new James Pond game again. After an under performing Diggers for the latest 32-bit systems (its sequel Diggers 2: Excavation wasn’t a Millennium product), ME was sold off in ’97, and the franchise has never really been in such major demand so as to warrant a new game. I hope I’m wrong though. I love the James Bond stories, and the Pond storyline is the kiddie version of that. I still think that if the right team was put behind it, and if it was a little more action and fewer puzzles, it just might work. This little hero may have had his major run with plenty of adventures during the early ’90s, but I think he’s due for another grand adventure.

And of course I’m wrong! James has actually started work as a spokesperson for the Thames Water Ring Main, and along with a NEW GAME (!) that teaches children how water travels from the ring to their respective homes, along with various worksheets and downloads about sewage treatment and generally the environment altogether. It looks as if even with the sea-cret agent work slowing down, James still has work, and all we can say is good show!

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