Metal Gear, Ultra, 1988
Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo, 1989
Bionic Commando, Capcom, 1988
They never did explain who the other parachutists were in Metal Gear.
Metal Gear, Ultra, 1988
Ninja Gaiden, Tecmo, 1989
Bionic Commando, Capcom, 1988
They never did explain who the other parachutists were in Metal Gear.
Today, Keiji Inafune’s Comcept and InitCreates announced a new 3DS game called Azure Striker Gunvolt, which is not the sequel to Voltage Fighter Gowcaiser, no matter how badly you would like for it to be. No, it’s actually pretty much just Mega Man ZX 3, except that unlike Mighty No. 9 (the other Comcept/IntiCreates combo project) it’s much less an obvious knockoff and looks more like a spiritual sequel. As opposed to a borderline-illegal sequel.
Interestingly, people are super bonkers about the game. Like, there’s legitimate excitement about it. I say “interestingly” because when Capcom announced the second ZX game, Mega Man ZX Advent, the world couldn’t yawn fast enough. After all, how many Mega Man games was Capcom cramming down our throats at the time? I remember going hands-on with Advent for the first time at an event where I also interviewed the producer of one of the Mega Man Star Force games (I forget which one), which followed immediately in the wake of Mega Man Battle Network, and I believe slotted in right between Mega Man X7 and X8 and Command Mission and one of the compilations, too. Even as someone who was determined to make writing about Mega Man games – especially those with nonlinear progression and mechanics! – a part of my paid day job, I really had to make an effort to give a crap about Advent. It was really a good game, but, you know… sometimes, enough’s enough.
Well, now we’ve gone something like four years since the last Mega Man game came out – unless you want to count an official sanctioned fan game and that terrible Japan-only mobile crossover garbage, which I would rather not – and a new chapter in the ZX series sounds pretty danged good. I know business is all about killing your golden goose as quickly and thoughtlessly as possible, but the buzz around Azure Striker Gunvolt really gives the impression that if Capcom had maybe been a little more sensible about the frequency with which they churned out Mega Man over the years, it might have been something the world still cared about before they took it away with such charming hamfistedness.
Me, I’m just looking forward to seeing Inafune file off the serial numbers for Mega Man Legends and give us an obvious analog to that series, too. You know it’s gonna happen sooner or later. Hopefully later. Gotta give those other Mega Man-alikes some breathing room, after all.
When I played Yoshi’s New Island back at E3 2013, I kind of hated it. Bland graphics and recycled game design are not how one goes about paying homage to one of the greatest video games of all time, dammit.
But the final version of the game has improved on at least one front, thankfully. It’s too early to say if the game itself is a worthy successor to the original just yet (or rather, it’s too early for me to be legally allowed to weigh in), but at least it no longer looks butt-ugly.
Unlike the folks behind The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, Takashi Tezuka and Arzest evidently weren’t content to leave their game as a dull, flat, polygonal effigy of a Super NES classic. While that’s exactly what I saw back at E3, at some point someone went in and said, “Hey guys, what if this game weren’t an ugly disappointment?” And so they gave it a touch of style.
The funny thing is, they really didn’t do that much to change the game’s visuals, so far as I can tell. It’s still a bunch of polygonal critters running around in the exact same polygonal world, a 3D simulation of Yoshi’s Island‘s visual style with fairly low-impact character models. And yet! The difference now is that those polygons have been drenched with a bunch of textures to make them look like real-world materials. Where before the game consisted of nearly solid-colored polygons awkwardly smooshed against backgrounds designed to look like fabric cut-outs and pastel illustrations, now everything boasts an artsy veneer. Yoshi, his enemies, and even background elements like pipes look more like a felt board diorama come to life than a cheap 3D game. The game already had some textures on its assets, but those details are far more prominent now, and it makes a world of difference.
I won’t deny that I still prefer the bold, MS Paint style of the original Yoshi’s Island. But if we must give into the tyranny of polygons, this is a pretty good way to go about it. I’m just impressed how a seemingly incidental detail – a minor tweak to the graphical patina! – makes such a huge difference. Because down inside, aren’t we all graphics whores at heart?
By request of npilon1
Platform games used to be so straightforward. You ran from left to right, jumped over stuff, and sometimes doubled back to the left if the board design called for it. Then things changed. They got complicated. You got your Metroids and your Vanias and your weird isometric platformers from the U.K. and suddenly it wasn’t so simple anymore. Sure, Mario and Sonic soldiered on with their bold left-to-right movements, but everyone else went in their own direction. Literally.
In the mid-’90s, the platformer began to change into a third-dimensional variant, while the timeless 2D format became deprecated and unloved. The 3D platformer’s reign was surprisingly brief, though, in large part because game design had begun to mature into more elaborate forms made possible by the third dimensions, and in large part because – and you can’t tell me this isn’t true, even if it makes your knee jerk – 3D platformers just aren’t as fun as their 2D counterparts.
With the implosion of 3D platformers, the entire genre (regardless of dimension) entered a long quiet spell where the few that came along tended to be on handheld systems. But with the runaway success of New Super Mario Bros. and the advent of inexpensive digital distribution, the platformer underwent a renaissance as large developers and indies alike began to explore new ideas for the series. And that is where we are today, with the platformer genre arguably healthier than it’s ever been. Not only do we see just as many as (if not more than) we did in the old days, they’re so much more varied! What a lovely time to be alive.
Loosely, I’ve come up with six general categories of modern platformers, since I was asked to do so. These aren’t genres or hard divisions by any means – more like groupings by general creative guidelines. Ethos, I guess.
Cave Story, Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams, Curse of the Crescent Isle, Mighty No. 9
The classic platformer hearkens back to the kind you remember from when you were a wee person. It usually involves running and jumping in a rightward motion. Often, it involves 8-bit-looking pixels, or else contemporary 3D graphics constrained to a 2D plane and patterned after the awkwardly shaped sprites of yore.
These games don’t aspire to reinvent the genre by any means; their creators were content to simply try their own hand at creating the sort of games they enjoyed growing up. These works push back against the tyranny of contemporary trends, wallowing in their deliberately unfashionable style so hard that, at times, they wrap around to become cool again. But even when they don’t catch any buzz, their rock-solid, time-tested underpinnings guarantee that (unless their creators are simply incompetent or get lost in visual gimmickry) they will offer a simple good time. And that’s great. They’re the comfort food of platformers.
N+, VVVVVV, Battle Kid, Super Meat Boy
On the other hand, you have games like these, which exist to push the limits of your skill, your patience, or the inherent design potential of an entire genre. Sometimes frenetic, sometimes not, “murder” platformers kill the player early, often, and with great relish. Depending on the designer’s creative ambition, “murder” platformers may give you infinite lives that spawn instantly, or they may give you a paltry handful and send you back to the very beginning to start over as punishment for your inadequacy. These games prey on your familiarity with genre tropes and the accepted rules of platformers, turning your expectations against you whenever possible to create fun through friction and surprise.
Rogue Legacy, Dark Void Zero, Mega Man 9
Closely related is the “postmodern” platformer, which differs from the “murder” platformer in one significant respect: It doesn’t hate your guts. At least, not completely. Where “murder” games are against you from the start to finish, “postmodern” games are on your side. They’re tough, and they too often use your familiarity and expectations against you, but it’s because they want you to be better. They cheer you on to improve. They hurt because they love. These games often imitate the form of something familiar to warp it into something unexpected – the most extreme being Mega Man 9, which approached the concept of making an NES Mega Man game with the perspective offered by 20 years of game design maturity. On the other hand, you have the likes of Rogue Legacy, which combine multiple creative inspirations into something that reflects the ethos of those other genres or game types in a new and refreshing and wholly unique way.
Almost every indie, Guacamelee, La-Mulana, Strider
Linear advancement through a non-linear world, with progress gated and unlocked by means of the collection of new skills or weapons. God, do I seriously have to explain this to you?
Endless runners, Rayman Legends, Gunslugs
These games incorporate a minimalist design philosophy to reflect the limitations of mobile platforms. At most, you’re likely to have a total of four buttons (left, right, jump, shoot), but often the action boils down to a hyper-simplified take on the accelerated action portions of a Sonic the Hedgehog game: Your protagonist runs automatically and your inputs simply determine the timing of when he or she jumps. Often – though certainly not always! – these games feature mediocre level or game design, either due to inexperienced designers or as a very deliberate means of exploiting the player by forcing them to pay microtransaction dollars for the opportunity to continue.
Mark of the Ninja, Super Mario Galaxy
And finally, you have the occasional game that just says, “You know, let’s do something different.” Whether it’s putting a new perspective on level design or taking a genre that seems inherently incompatible with action platforming (such as stealth), these games don’t come often… but when they do, they demand to be experienced. They occupy the same rarified creative ground that the likes of Bionic Commando and Yoshi’s Island did back in the day. Cherish them.
I probably missed something obvious, so please compensate for my inadequacies as a human in the comments.
When I renamed this site 2-Dimensions, the idea was to focus on, well, two-dimensional media. Specifically: Video games with 2D gameplay and especially raster art; hand-drawn animation; comics and graphic novels; and other similar creations. All glory to the traditional ways, and so forth. Now that I’ve made some progress in breaking things out into other sites, it’s time to get more serious about this. So let’s begin by looking at 2014′s crop of 2D games so far – barring mobile platforms, though, because no single human can keep up with that churn.
PSN | Orangepixel
I grabbed this one on a whim, since it was about three bucks with my PlayStation Plus discount, and it turned out to be worth the money. Evidently it’s a port of a mobile game, one of those rare procedurally generated games that isn’t just trying to be a roguelike. Drawing rather obvious inspiration from Metal Slug, it puts you in control a little pixel dude shooting other little pixel dudes and grabbing weapons as you go. It’s super-simplistic, but unlike a lot of mobile games it’s not an auto-scrolling runner; it’s more of an arcade-style action game. It’s not perfect by any means – the game gives you lots of health to compensate for the slightly messy controls and hard-to-avoid enemy projectiles – but if you want a cheap, dumb, time waster it’s as good as any.
PSN | LucasArts
This game is rad. I wrote about why it’s rad for USgamer in case you need supplemental proof of its radness.
PSN | XBL | Steam | Double Helix | Capcom
Despite its visual monotony and general lack of new ideas, Strider (2014 edition) manages to rise above previous Strider (1989 edition) sequels – it’s a bit more focused than Strider 2, and unlike Journey Into Darkness it’s not an incompetent mess. Still not a patch on the original, but definitely a step in the right direction. Not that it’ll matter now that the developer has been snatched up by Amazon in order to churn out games for the company’s mysterious games box.
Donkey Kong Country Tropical Freeze
Wii U | Retro | Nintendo
I can’t seem to get into Donkey Kong Country either old or new, but everyone else seems to think Tropical Freeze is the bee’s knees. And who am I to argue with collective wisdom? There’s a kernel of greatness in here that continues to elude me, but you’ll probably have an easier time finding it.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
Wii U Virtual Console | Nintendo
Now that A Link Between Worlds is three months old, maybe it’s time to revisit that world with the original game. Or, you know, maybe you’ll just want to play this because it’s a true masterpiece of game design.
A PC-to-PlayStation indie conversion, Dustforce seems to be well-regarded. If nothing else, it pairs Rogue Legacy-style retro graphics with the unlikely premise of fighting through enemy mobs with a broom, so there’s that.
Muramasa Rebirth: A Cause to Dakion For/Genroku Legends
Likewise, the new DLC for the Vita version of Muramasa sees you playing the role of a farmer in the same peasant rebellion chronicled by not-so-classic Famicom classic Ikki.
The PlayStation version of the original Mr. Driller is definitely the most mundane and feature-light entry in the entire franchise (well, except maybe for the Game Boy Color release), but you can surely find six bucks’ worth of entertainment in this fast-paced arcade puzzler that mixes Dig Dug and Puyo Puyo in one delightful package.
Cool, Tomba 2′s on PSN! The original has become hard to find and rather expensive. Oh, but for some reason despite the cover art it’s the Japanese release of the game. Weird. And unfortunate, given its emphasis on dispensing quests via text.
Somewhere between Tony Hawk Pro Skater and Trials HD you’ll find… Olli Olli. That seems like a good middle ground to occupy.
The Firemen 2
The unlikely sequel to Human Entertainment’s very late era Super NES The Firemen hits PlayStation Network as an import title. A strange import choice, but not a bad one. Unlike most PlayStation sequels to 16-bit games, this one doesn’t try to go all in and move everything to awkward 3D; it’s more or less just a higher-resolution version of the SNES game.
This game has appeared on pretty much every platform ever, and now it’s on Wii U. If you’ve somehow missed its myriad other incarnations (including its time as a free download for PlayStation Plus), well, here you go.
Will team Fat Guy triumph over team Skinny Dudes? Only time (and your twitch reflexes) will tell.
The excellent sequel to Contra returns to Virtual Console. But still no original Contra. Thanks for being buttheads, Konami.
Retro City Rampage DX
The fun but slightly disappointing GTA/’80s pastiche comes to 3DS with enhancements. I don’t know the specifics, but I’m hoping it means the underwater parts are less grueling.
The amazing semi-sequel to Gradius. I lack sufficient skill to be able to beat this on a single life like I used to, but it’s still good fun.
Yeah, the game’s kind of a mess, but it’s a classic mess brimming with interesting and ambitious ideas. Just use a strategy guide and all will be well.
Mega Man X2
You know, this is a real rarity: One of the few Mega Man games I’ve barely played. I should rectify that, I guess, but I’d have to go into it knowing that it couldn’t possibly live up to its near-perfect predecessor. Alas.
Bob Mackey says this game is cool, and who are you to question Bob Mackey?
And the rest:
A decent port of a decent game, but one definitely eclipsed by its sequels.
An amusing ROM hack writ large; just be sure to play it on “hard” difficulty or else it’s super boring.
The Game Boy Color tennis RPG makes a comeback and sets a pretty high bar for the upcoming sequel to top.
Now that God has given us legitimate, built-in save states, there’s really no reason not to finally finish this game.
Let me save you some trouble and money; instead of downloading this tired old game, just read this analysis instead.
Mighty Bomb Jack
The semi-classic action puzzler becomes much easier, as with Ninja Gaiden, if you abuse the crap out of save states. Or you could just watch the Game Center CX episode…
Not the classic arcade game or the inventive NES port. This is a dumb fighting game based on the even dumber movie.
Age of Zombies
A definite play for the lowest common denominator, this top down shooter began life on iOS and seems like it might maybe be kind of decent-ish, I guess.
Jewel Master: Cradle of Rome 2
This is going to blow your mind, but Jewel Master? It’s a match-three puzzle game. I know, you were holding out for a sequel to the old Genesis game. Sorry.
What’s that, you say? Another mobile port? Yeah, this one kind of falls somewhere between Odama and Angry Birds, if you can imagine that.
The terrible NES port of the lackluster predecessor to Double Dragon and River City Ransom comes to Virtual Console. It would have been a better sale if it had maybe come to Virtual Console before those games, which make this rough (and I do mean rough) draft seem kind of moot.
It’s no Time Pilot, I’ll say that much.
A variant on the nonogram genre, Tappingo seems like it might be kind of an interesting diversion for Picross junkies while they’re waiting for the freshly announced Picross E4 to make its way into the world.
Kung Fu Rabbit
As far as I can tell, this has nothing to do with the poorly rated CG cartoon from a few years back. It’s just your typical side-scrolling platformer.
And finally, another mobile port to 3DS. A chill puzzler that has racked up lots of positive reviews.