Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus in 2024 is still awesome! – Emulated Review – WGB


At the bargain price of a measly £7, I snapped up Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus on the PlayStation Network because it was a series I missed out on back in the PlayStation 2 days. It turned out to be the perfect decision because Sly Cooper is a jump back to a simpler time of action-platforming, a firm kick in my dangling nostalgia-balls that has sent the searing hot memories of times forgotten up through my body and into my brain.

Note: Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus was also called Sly Racoon in PAL regions, such as here in the UK. A tad confusing, yes. For clarity, I’m just going to refer to it as Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus as that is what the majority reading this are used to.

For context, Sly Coooper is one of three PlayStation 2 titles that represent Sony’s latest attempt at emulating classic games from the PS2 era. The first batch on modern hardware included the likes of the Jak & Daxter series but the emulation was heavily flawed and the problems became worse when the PS5 released, seemingly because the emulator wasn’t designed with the PS5’s architecture in mind.

Available On: PS2, PS4, PS5
Reviewed on: PS5 (via emulation)
Developer: Sucker Punch, Implicit Conversions
Publisher: Sony

But for a breakdown of the actual emulation performance you can scroll further down the page. For now, I’d like to toss compliments in Sly’s direction so that he can store them for the cold hard winter ahead…no, wait. That’s squirrels. I’m thinking of squirrels. So he can sneak them out of the rubbish bin like the trash panda that he is? Yeah. That’ll do it.

Sly is, as the name of the game suggests, a racoon. He’s also a walking, talking stereotype because like all racoons he’s a thieving little bastard. Sly’s family has a long and noble history of pulling off daring heists on other thieves. That legacy meets a tragic end when Sly’s father is murdered at the talons of Clockwerk and his cronies, who together form the Fiendish Five. Revenge drives Sly, as does a desire to retrieve the Thievius Raccoonus, a book containing the knowledge and skills of the entire Cooper family lineage which was stolen by the Fiendish Five.

Sly is voiced by Kevin Miller who portrays the character brilliantly, giving the thief a roguish charm and a cool, calm and collected exterior that hides his grief. That said, I do think the script lets him down a touch because he never gets the chance to unleash a truly angry Sly Cooper. That’s because the game almost puts more emphasis on Sly recovering his family’s stolen property than on the murder of Sly’s father. Even when Sly confronts the big baddie himself, the emotional weight isn’t allowed to break through and smash you in the chest like it needs to. With smarter writing, Sly’s slick persona could have cracked to reveal the anger lurking beneath, especially in the final stages of the game.

Unfortunately the game makes heavy use of motion blur, making it tricky to get screenshots that don’t have Sly standing perfectly still. Sorry about that!

But the story and writing don’t lack a sense of easy-going fun and charm. Sly is cut from the same (probably stolen) cloth as classic character like Han Solo, a rogue with a good heart and enough smugness to power a small town. He’s got a couple of plucky companions along for the ride, too; Bently, the technical wiz of the operation who isn’t a fine of germs or getting his hands dirty; and Murray, the gangs getaway driver and resident goofball. They are quirky, fun companions which is why its a shame they don’t get much screentime, a complaint that’s even more true of Sly’s love interest Inspector Carmelita Montoya Fox. But from what I’ve read, this lack of character development gets fixed in the sequels.

While the game kind of pitches itself as a stealthy adventure, you don’t actually do a whole lot of sneaking. Sly is a dab hand with his handy cane, usually managing to knock out foes with a single blow. That’s good because he’s not the most durable mammal in the land, only able to soak up one hit before losing a life. Baddies usually have a singular attack they employ like a leaping body slam or hurling a shuriken at Sly’s face, so you jump or sidestep that and then introduce them to the weighty of a hefty wooden pole.

Platforming is equally straightforward and just as fun. A simple jump is all Sly has to rely on for the most part, and, of course, the questionable timing and skills of the player. By pressing the circle you can also get Sly to inch across narrow platforms, land atop poles and swing on hooks, although I did find the game weirdly unresponsive at times. I’m not sure if this is an issue that was present in the original version of the game, but sometimes pressing circle wouldn’t register, sending Sly plummeting to his death. Sorry, Sly.

That small control issue aside, the game is a pleasure to play. While it’s far from the more complex games of today, I basked in the simplicity of Sly Cooper’s mixture of platforming and combat through its linear levels. There’s a pleasing cadence to the action that stems from its linearity – you’re always moving forward at a brisk pace all while seeking out clues to uncover the combination to vaults which unlock new skills.

There’s a pretty simple structure to the game as well: you enter a new zone, battle through the introductory mission that sets up the general theme, like a casino or swamp, and then get dumped into a small hub that hosts several missions. To progress to that zones big boss battle you’ll need to play through each mission, snag the treasure keys and use them to progress. Sure, the structure is a little repetitive, but it works nicely in the context of the 5 or 6 hours it takes to complete. Plus, the game does a good job of throwing in some new gameplay from time to time, like clumsy racing sections or vehicle based levels, or maybe a new enemy type. Above all else, like a good thief it doesn’t hang around long enough to overstay its welcome, so by the time the gameplay is wearing thin the credits are rolling and Sly is sneaking out the back with your valuables in a sack.

The Emulator

What we’ve got is the game’s native resolution of 480p upscaled by the emulator to what appears to be 1080i. Otherwise, the image is untouched and presented in the classic 4:3 ratio, meaning you’ll have massive black bars on either side of the screen. In other words, this is pretty much a 1-to-1 recreation of what playing Sly Racoon in the early 2000s would have been like, at least graphically. And without the chunky TV that required a freaking body-builder to move around.

The other point of comparison, aside from the original game, is the PS3 remastered versions of the first three games. That package took the original game and enhanced it with improved textures and a native 720p. It also included widescreen support. I don’t have a PS3 handy to test that collection out though, so all I can do is go various videos available on Youtube that attempt to provide a side-by-side look. The other option is to stream the PS3 package via PlayStation Premium, but PS3 streaming is notoriously shite and wouldn’t give a very fair comparison. Overall, it’s difficult to choose one or the other: this new, emulated version looks a tad sharper because of the upscaling, but the improved textures of the remaster look great.

Of course, it’s a moot point really because outside of streaming it the remastered collection isn’t readily available.

The biggest benefit the emulator offered, in my experience, was being able to rebind all of the game’s controls. Being of the older persuasion, Sly Cooper has a few control issues, the kind I hear effect racoons of a certain age and….where the fuck am I going with this metaphor? The point is, the camera controls on the right stick are inverted by default, meaning if you push the stick left the camera moves right and vice versa. There’s no way to change this is the game and while I could adapt to the original control scheme, that would take actual effort. Thankfully the emulator allows for rebinding the controls, so within a few seconds the camera was swapped around.

The second biggest positive of the emulator was the ability to rewind. It’s a very cool feature that pops up with a tap of a button, letting you jump backwards in time by five second increments . It’s instantaneous, too, and lets you go remarkably far back. I reckon you can rewind up to about five minutes. In a platformer like this where a single hit or slip-up costs a life and could send you back to the start of the stage, being able to quickly leap backwards in time is awesome!

The emulator also boasts a save/load feature that you can bring up at any time. And I do mean any time. In the middle of cutscenes, loading screens – anything, really.

Finally, there are some useless visual presets that simply add a filter to the image, like a grainy arcade setting. I didn’t use these and I can’t imagine anyone will.

There is the choice to turn off “Enhancements”, a slightly peculiar option as it doesn’t explain what these enhancements are. Naturally, like me, you might assume enhancements refer to graphical upgrades, but that’s not the case. It turns out the enhancements in question is the rewind feature That begs the question, why turn them off? After all, they don’t impact the game in any way until you choose to use them. Well, it turns out they might.

The PS4 version has the enhancements turned off by default, a tacit nod to the fact that they can cause some performance woes on the older machine. The rewind feature uses a lot of system memory in order to keep all those game states available, something which the PS4 seems to struggle with. People have reported lower framerates with the features enabled, as well as the game being more prone to crashing when the replay feature is heavily used.

That’s not the only issue with the PS4 version of the emulation, either: the gameplay runs slightly faster than it should, giving it a slightly feel and also resulting in the audio becoming desynced. This is especially problematic on one specific boss built around timing button presses to the music, although it’s still possible to get through it.

The good news is that the company behind the emulator are aware of these issues and are actively working on them. Hopefully they’ll be fixed soon.

Finally, we have to talk about those super shiny PlayStation Trophies! For this release, a brand new Trophy list has been drawn up, including that all-important Platinum. The new list is different to the one found in the PS3 remasters, being notably tougher. It includes level-specific challenges that are quite fun, as well as having to open all the vaults and completing at least ten of the timed runs. It isn’t going to tax you too much, but the list is quite fun, encourages some messing about and is decently challenging.

In Conclusion…

Rating: 4 out of 5.

With so many new games piling up on my backlog its starting to become a real health and safety hazard, and choosing to jump into a PS2 classic sure isn’t going to help me keep up. But it was the right choice. Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is a classic for a reason, and finally getting to experience it was a joy. Clearly, this newly emulated version has a couple of flaws that need to be worked out, although my own personal experience was flawless aside from a single crash. The game itself has held up well over the years. It’s extremely charming, telling a fun story that supports simple yet entertaining platforming action.

So far it seems this newly emulated release of Sly Cooper has done very well indeed, meaning it’s probably safe to bet that the rest of the trilogy will make its way onto PSN. But the real question is whether we could Sly sneak his way onto PS5 in a new game. Is the world interested in Sly anymore? Enough to warrant a sequel or reboot? I just don’t know. But I sincerely hope so because Sly Cooper and the Thievius Raccoonus is a reminder of why the golden days of platformer mascots were so glorious.

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