It’s rare to see big platform holders seemingly abandon one of their more iconic franchises, but it does happen. Look at Nintendo with F-Zero. I wouldn’t exactly call Blinx: The Time-Sweeper “iconic” but it made enough of an impact in its two games on the original Xbox that the fact it’s not on more modern platforms is noticeable. You could also say the same thing about Banjo-Kazooie. In fact, that’s the better example, forget I mentioned Blinx.
Over on the PlayStation, there’s one franchise that’s seemingly dropped off the face of the Earth, only to be briefly mentioned again more recently and then dropped a second time like a bad habit. That franchise is Ape Escape, and given how prevalent the monkey catching game was during the PS1-PS2 era for PlayStation, the fact that there’s been no significant release in a decade is shocking. Will we ever see a new game in the series? Let’s take a look.
The History of Ape Escape
The first Ape Escape was developed by Japan Studio and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. It launched in 1999 for the PS1, and it’s pretty much as the title suggests: some apes have escaped and you must run around some colourful and varied levels with a net to try and capture them. While that doesn’t sound revolutionary, Ape Escape was the first game in PlayStation’s history to be developed specifically for the DualShock controller, making use of the twin-stick control setup.
Ape Escape was widely beloved on release, with a host of positive reviews and enough commercial success to warrant a host of follow-ups and spin-offs, and entered both the Greatest Hits series in the US and the Best Of series in Japan. It was even enough of a success that the original game was ported onto the PSP as Ape Escape: On The Loose, though the thought of trying to play Ape Escape with the PSP’s lone analogue nub does not sound appealing.
Eager to follow up on the original’s success, Ape Escape 2 launched on the PS2 in 2002 in Japan (Europe and America only saw the game in 2003). The sequel introduced a variety of new gadgets and mechanics to the series, and saw a similar level of success to the original. It was around this time that Ape Escape’s potential as a franchise truly opened up, as Sony got to work on various spin-off party games like Ape Escape: Pumped and Primed, Ape Academy and Eye Toy: Monkey Mania.
In mid-2005, Ape Escape 3 launched in Japan, before being brought over to America and Europe in 2006, and arguably represented the pinnacle of the series. New abilities injected a different flavour into the core gameplay, and the constant film and TV parodies ensured you were never too far away from a good chuckle. Ape Escape 3 also introduced the greatest minigame in history with Mesal Gear Solid, a cliffnotes retelling of the original Metal Gear Solid, only all the characters have been replaced by monkeys. It’s perfect.
That collaboration with MGS also transferred over to Metal Gear Solid 3 with the Snake vs. Monkey minigame that saw Naked Snake travelling to different areas in the game to capture those pesky apes. It’s a silly mode, but it’s one that showcases how prevalent the Ape Escape series was during the mid-2000s. Unfortunately, this mode wasn’t included in the subsequent re-releases of Metal Gear Solid 3, which is sad.
After Ape Escape 3, and the subsequent release of Ape Academy 2, the series becomes somewhat fractured. Sony Japan wanted to lead development on Million Monkeys, which blended the ape capturing gameplay of the main series with the more fast-paced action of the party title Pumped & Primed. Million Monkeys did very well in Japan, so much so that it led to that version of Specter appearing in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, but it never saw the light of day outside of Asia.
Meanwhile, Sony America stated that they were more interested in developing their own game in the Ape Escape franchise. They came up with Ape Quest, a role-playing take featuring the iconic apes that seemed about as far removed from the original material as Super Monkey Ball Adventure was to the original puzzle game. I didn’t even know it was a thing until researching this article, so it clearly set the world on fire.
Where Is The Ape Escape Series Now?
The last standalone Ape Escape release was PlayStation Move Ape Escape, which is exactly what you think it is. It’s a rail shooter/party game for the PS3 that requires the Move controllers to work, and it was critically shafted when it was released. After that, there’s been no standalone Ape Escape since, but they’ve featured in Super Bomberman R and an Ape Escape scene was recreated in Astro’s Playroom.
The lack of a new Ape Escape game is concerning, but it doesn’t seem like it hasn’t been through a lack of trying. A fourth Ape Escape game was practically revealed back in 2006 with an advert in Famitsu. After the announcement of Ape Escape alongside the PlayStation Move controller in 2009, some speculated it to be the fabled fourth entry, but it was revealed to be the aforementioned Move game.
Fast forward to 2016, and PlayStation Japan shares a tweet heavily hinting that they’re working on a brand new entry in the Ape Escape series. After that, it was radio silence for 3 years, until 2019 when an official 20th anniversary Twitter account was created for Ape Escape, and the official Japanese website was even updated. Fans felt like this would lead to the inevitable announcement of a new game.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. About a year after the Ape Escape account first appeared, they shared a thread about how it’s time to say goodbye, and that they had some regrets about some things they wished they could do during the 20th anniversary. While nothing has been officially revealed about the behind the scenes workings, the general consensus is some kind of Ape Escape project was in the works, but was ultimately canned. Cue sad tears from all the children, and by children, I mean me.
Will We Ever See A New Ape Escape Game?
In my heart of hearts, I wish I could say yes. My Twitter account says I won’t rest until the main trilogy gets a remake, but I’m not convinced it’ll ever happen. The PlayStation brand currently has its fill of 3D platformers, with Sackboy and Astro’s Playroom all receiving fantastic praise. The Astro series is even developed by Sony Japan, the previous developers of Ape Escape, so it’s possible that they’ve shifted their priorities over to their new star.
However, Crash Bandicoot was originally developed by Naughty Dog, but Vicarious Visions did a fantastic job with the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy. Similarly, Toys For Bob knocked it out of the park with Spyro Reignited Trilogy, effectively remaking the work done by Insomniac Games. Just because the original developers of a classic platforming game aren’t involved doesn’t mean that a remake can’t be incredibly successful, and if Crash and Spyro have proved anything, it’s that the nostalgia dollar is stronger than ever.
Sony themselves have proved that they’re no strangers to bringing out the remakes, with Demon’s Souls being considered the one of the best launch games for the PS5. Sony were even on the remake train before the PS5, with Shadow of the Colossus and Medievil released for the PS4 too. I’m sure with the right motivation, Sony could find a reason to bring Ape Escape to the modern era, maybe with some DualSense enhancements to bring the franchise full circle.
Currently, Ape Escape 2 is available to play as a PS2 Classic on PS4/5, and Ape Escape 3 was rated for PS4 by the ESRB in 2020, but nothing has come of that yet. Usually, ratings are a pretty good indicator of whether we’ll see an unannounced game appearing soon, but the fact we still haven’t seen Ape Escape 3 is strange. Perhaps it was a mistake on ESRB’s part, or plans have been shelved.
It certainly feels like the fan support is there for something new from the Ape Escape series, and the anniversary event suggests someone at Sony is still burning a candle for the classic franchise. Hopefully one day, the planets will align and the apes will escape once again. In the meantime, I’ll be over here petitioning Nintendo for a new F-Zero game.
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