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Sonic Joins the New Class of Old School
February 4, 2010 9:25 AM   Subscribe

Retro gamers are rejoicing today as Sega revealed that its flagship character Sonic will finally be returning to his 2-D roots after languishing for years in GameStop cheapo bins everywhere. Following the releases of such new old-school titles as New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Mega Man 9, A Boy and His Blob and Adventure Island, Sonic 4 will be a downloadable title for PS3/Wii/X-Box 360 this summer.
posted by Otis (68 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
oh christ, finally. the outcry over the 3d travesties has been loud and clamorous for years. maybe there was a way to really bring the excellent gameplay of the first two sonic games into the 3rd dimension, but they never figured it out.
posted by shmegegge at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2010


except, of course, for the one where there was a "Dark Sonic" who carried a gun and shot people. that, obviously, was excellent.
posted by shmegegge at 9:28 AM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Related In-Jokey Article from SomethingAwful.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:29 AM on February 4, 2010


Awesome. The only modern-day Sonic games worth playing were on the Nintendo DS. I've yet to play a 3D Sonic game that wasn't absolute garbage.
posted by porn in the woods at 9:30 AM on February 4, 2010


It's about frigging time. They got our hopes up with Sonic Unleashed and then had to ruin it with that stupid werehog crap. Looking forward to a continuation of the retro games that I still play nostalgically to this day!
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 9:31 AM on February 4, 2010


I was all set until I read about the motion controls. I really hope those are optional and inconsequential.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:33 AM on February 4, 2010


Where is the sexual tension of Sonic Adventure 2: Battle? Or the post-apocalyptic drama of Sonic 360, which transcended Orwellian and approached a level of philosophical complexity attained only by masterpieces such as Neon Genesis Evangelion?

oh my, that's fucking funny.
posted by shmegegge at 9:33 AM on February 4, 2010


When I saw the last 3-D Pac-Man, I could only seek comfort in the Bible.

"And Jesus Wept."
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 9:36 AM on February 4, 2010


Mining nostalgia has been really profitable for the industry lately.
posted by graventy at 9:36 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Maybe I'm just a bitter old 2D animator type, but I'm looking at that teaser trailer featuring Sonic's run cycle from the classic games and the 3D game. And the hand-drawn cycles have somuch more life and guts - the 3D one is just… moving, while the 2D cycles, with all their subtle warps and blurs, are running.

Not that I'll be playing this anyway, since I don't have a current-generation console.
posted by egypturnash at 9:39 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hell yes! My favorite old school franchise, whee
posted by ifjuly at 9:42 AM on February 4, 2010


And the hand-drawn cycles have somuch more life and guts - the 3D one is just… moving, while the 2D cycles, with all their subtle warps and blurs, are running.

thank you. yes, that is precisely the kind of detail that is missing from the 3d stuff, and that kind of detail matters.
posted by shmegegge at 9:43 AM on February 4, 2010


This made me wonder: Has there ever been a game designed entirely in both 2D and 3D, so that a player can toggle at will between the two environments?

So, for example: You're in 2D side-scrolling mode and you come upon an impassable wall. You switch over to 3D view, and now you can see a gap in the wall which you can crawl through. Once on the other side, you can switch back to 2D mode (if you so wish) and continue on.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:47 AM on February 4, 2010


Some of the Paper Marios had effects like that. You change perspective and see pipes and doors that were previously blocked by scenery.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:49 AM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Atom Eyes, that's the gameplay mechanic behind Crush, for the PSP, which was an underselling but stellar game by all accounts. In a different, but related, sense: The remake of The Secret of Monkey Island for the 360 would switch between the old school graphics and interface and the revamped version with a button press.
posted by shmegegge at 9:50 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Atom Eyes: Super Paper Mario on the Wii does that.
posted by DMan at 9:50 AM on February 4, 2010


There is also the game Fez, which plays with the 2d/3d switch, due out soon for xbla.
posted by zabuni at 9:52 AM on February 4, 2010


I don't want old-school Sonic "with updated 3D high-polygon-count graphics and a new orchestral score!" or whatever is going on. Sega's not getting it. I want the pixelated hand-crafted 16-bit graphics and tinny synths and occasional slow-down. That's the only direct path to my childhood, the rest is just a tease. Maybe they should study Mega Man 9 a bit more.
posted by naju at 9:54 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


And the hand-drawn cycles have somuch more life and guts - the 3D one is just… moving, while the 2D cycles, with all their subtle warps and blurs, are running.

I don't think it's something inherent to 2D/3D. The 3D here is just very badly done. Why not speed up the leg motion and add a blur, to achieve something closer to the old movement? I don't have much confidence this game will evoke the frantic sense of speed of its predecessors.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:03 AM on February 4, 2010


Thanks guys. Those games are exactly the kind of thing I was imagining.
posted by Atom Eyes at 10:04 AM on February 4, 2010


Some obsessive thoughts on the trailer
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 10:05 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


This is awesome!

As someone who was last seriously into games when she was 11, during the SNES era, I find 3d platformers really frustrating. I realize it's probably a flaw on my part, but I've been playing Super Mario Galaxy lately and I just keep falling off of things.

But then, I also sorta suck at video games, as much as I love them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:07 AM on February 4, 2010


Sega Blue.
posted by oddman at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2010


"The Mega Man 9 Effect"
posted by naju at 10:10 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


You know, I'm surprised we don't see more hand-drawn 2D games these days. Today's consoles can offer high definition details and nuances that we couldn't get in the 16-bit era. Seems like there should be a flood of games with incredible "natural media" art. But polygons are still the bee's knees.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:11 AM on February 4, 2010


Wait, Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Episode 1? Meaning "You get two levels for the first $10, and we'll be following that with four more episodes, so you pay $50 for a 2D game that in a store would be maybe $35?"
posted by darksasami at 10:21 AM on February 4, 2010


Am I the only one that thought Mega Man 9 was ridiculously, unplayably hard? And I can still pick up most of the NES Mega Man titles and get most of the way through them to this day, so I don't just plain suck at video games. I'm apparently not the twitchy freak they designed Mega Man 9 for, though.

As far as this Sonic game goes, it had better be the greatest Sonic ever if there's any hope of the franchise surviving. It's almost been too damaged as it is, but there's still a chance that a really amazing 2D Sonic title could overcome that.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:23 AM on February 4, 2010


Surely this...
posted by yellowbinder at 10:25 AM on February 4, 2010


I find 3d platformers really frustrating. I realize it's probably a flaw on my part, but I've been playing Super Mario Galaxy lately and I just keep falling off of things.

Yeah, as much as I enjoyed Mario Sunshine and various things like that, 3D platforms need to make platform edges sticky or something. And don't even get me started on trying to jump from up really high onto something low and far away. The lack of depth perception combined with 3rd-person POV really doesn't allow for 2D platforming twitch-gaming like a lot of designers seem to want it to.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:25 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Wait, Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Episode 1? Meaning "You get two levels for the first $10, and we'll be following that with four more episodes, so you pay $50 for a 2D game that in a store would be maybe $35?"

They used to do that all the time with PC games. That was the way that Wolfenstein 3D, Doom I (but not II), and the original Quake were released, for example. Most of their imitators did the same.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:26 AM on February 4, 2010


You know, I'm surprised we don't see more hand-drawn 2D games these days

ARE YOU AWARE OF CRITTER CRUNCH

But yea, there is a mini-revolution where a lot more 2d games are being made these days, and there are some really great ones that look fucking fantastic in HD, like the Pixel Junk games.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 10:32 AM on February 4, 2010


They used to do that all the time with PC games. That was the way that Wolfenstein 3D, Doom I (but not II), and the original Quake were released, for example. Most of their imitators did the same.

Well, sure, but at the time those were top of the line games, with super-fancy graphics and whatnot. If Sonic 4 ends up costing 50-60 bucks I'm going to be pretty disappointed.
posted by graventy at 10:34 AM on February 4, 2010


This is cool, but I'm more excited about Cave Story coming to Wii... assuming it ever gets approved.

In general, I'm very happy with the recent resurgence of the 2D platformer (my favorite game genre).
posted by brundlefly at 10:36 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


I don't want old-school Sonic "with updated 3D high-polygon-count graphics and a new orchestral score!" or whatever is going on. Sega's not getting it. I want the pixelated hand-crafted 16-bit graphics and tinny synths and occasional slow-down. That's the only direct path to my childhood, the rest is just a tease.

I don't think it really makes sense for Sega to use their resources to make that kind of game, though. They need it to be popular with kids who grew up playing Halo on an Xbox (and ignoring all of the crappy Sonic games that were being released) rather than adults who grew up playing the original Sonic on a Genesis.

Personally I think it would make sense for Sega and other companies that hold the rights to old school game intellectual property to be more creative about licensing their games and characters. If Sega made a deal with an indie games developer to let them produce a new Sonic game in exchange for a cut of the profits, they could end up with a game that old school Sonic fans would like without having to spend any of their own money to produce it. And maybe it doesn't make sense for Sega to do that with their flagship franchise, but there are plenty of companies out there that have absolutely nothing to lose like SNK that are sitting on a lot of popular games and characters but don't have the resources to develop them internally.
posted by burnmp3s at 10:38 AM on February 4, 2010


With Doom etc., wasn't the entire first episode released for free under a shareware model? Clearly that's not happening here...
posted by naju at 10:40 AM on February 4, 2010


I'm just going to say something that should be obvious:

A lot of 3D gaming just isn't fun.

Fun is not your bump maps, your camera positioning, your alpha blending. Fun is not tesselating polygons or sprite imposters.

Fun is not a texture map.

Fun is predicting a world, or not. Fun is learning. Fun is exploring -- and yes, your pretty pretty pictures are a part of this! -- but not just exploring *what* is there, but also *how* you can be part of it. Fun is not simply a slide show of effects.

Fun is a balancing act. Any system where you can just throw more coal in the burner is not fun. Systems where you have a hundred burners, all of which balance against one another, these are fun.

When you spend all your time and coin working on things that are not fun, do not be surprised when your output is not fun. Playtest obsessively, like Nintendo (but no longer their licensees), like Valve, and you too can make fun.

I do love pretty pictures. But it's really about the fun, even if it doesn't scale as predictably or as well.
posted by effugas at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2010 [10 favorites]


Wait, Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Episode 1? Meaning "You get two levels for the first $10, and we'll be following that with four more episodes, so you pay $50 for a 2D game that in a store would be maybe $35?"

They used to do that all the time with PC games. That was the way that Wolfenstein 3D, Doom I (but not II), and the original Quake were released, for example. Most of their imitators did the same.


Not quite. Back in the shareware era, Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake all released the first chapter of the game for free. You then had to pay to play the rest of the game. I doubt Sega will give away a significant portion of this game for free.
posted by joedan at 10:56 AM on February 4, 2010


I won't treat this as a real successor if it includes any of Sonic's friends other than Tails or Knuckles. Over the years, the Mario and Sonic franchises have kept adding new characters to their universes, and the Mario mythos has somehow ended up being rather charming. The Sonic mythos includes a gangsta crocodile and a sexy bat.

I want to see Sonic all pudgy and adorable again, not pointy and angular.

None of this "Eggman" crap either. He's Dr. Robotnik.
posted by painquale at 10:58 AM on February 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


effugas: Fun is also subjective.
posted by flatluigi at 11:11 AM on February 4, 2010


The Sonic mythos includes a gangsta crocodile and a sexy bat.

Also, Cream the Rabbit, and if you can see that without singing it to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries and then feeling slightly pervy for the rest of the day, then good for you.
posted by Wolfdog at 11:30 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


A lot of 3D gaming just isn't fun.

oof. hate hate hate arguments like this. it's literally a list of straw men and question begging. I respect your love of 2d games, and share it, but damn. You basically wrote out a list that was like "fun games are fun. not fun games are not fun. therefore, 3d games are not fun and 2d games are."
posted by shmegegge at 11:36 AM on February 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Am I the only one that thought Mega Man 9 was ridiculously, unplayably hard?

I thought it was just about right. I can plow through Megaman 1-3, but 4-6 are just plain too hard for me. 9 felt like it was just about the right difficulty- whenever I died, I felt like it was because I just wasn't good enough, because I had done something wrong. The later NES games seemed to me to have a lot of unavoidable hits and cheap shots.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:36 AM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I checked the links from porn in the woods, I imagined the game was called "Son, I Crush". It would be about an old-time miner with a fist of steel, a one-man army in a tough land, always grimacing, with the stale end of a cigar in his teeth and stubble on his chin. You would play as The Kid, a young feller who is new to the rough-n-tough mining town, with your eyes set on gold. You enter town on your horse, who you raised from a mere pony. The two of you are the only thing either of you have, as your parents were killed by bandits, and your horses parents were taken by those very same bandits. You'd stumble into a bar, wide-eyed and innocent. You'd sit down at a bar, and some swell-looking fellow would throw his arm around you and start talking a mile a minute. He'd pat you on the back and say "Welcome to town!" and chuckle, which would seem odd. You'd reach for your bill-fold to pay for your milk, but it's not there! Panicking, you pat your pockets down, and start to make up a story to the bartender who is staring you down, when you hear something behind you.

"Not my gamblin' hand!"
*Crunch*
"Ayeeee!"

Wide-eyed, you just stare forward, and your bill-fold is tossed onto the counter, over your shoulder. You'd pay for your milk, and turn around to see the old-timer. You're worried because he's scowling, but he puts his hand out and greets you. You head out the door for somewhere to gather your thoughts, but find your horse is missing! The old timer walks out after you, and you turn to him for help. He talks about how he lives a tough life, and you tell him your sad story. In the end, he gives in, and you tag along with him, in search of your horse and, of course, gold. You do all you can, but when it comes to the tough stuff, he has it handled. And with his usual gruff demeanor, he'll remind you: "Son, I crush."

Alas, this is not true.
posted by filthy light thief at 11:38 AM on February 4, 2010 [7 favorites]


I personally was the prime demographic for Sonic when it originally came out, but I was in a Nintendo household, so while I am fond of the series it doesn't hold the resonance of the plumbing brothers for me.

That being said I truly and honestly hope that this game can come close to the polish and thought that NSMB had and actually evolve the series using an old graphical medium. One thing I disliked about MM9 was that instead of focusing on making a great 2d game Capcom seemed to be more interested in making a great retro game. It was a terrific effort, and I am looking forward to the sequel, but it was far too conservative in my opinion.

That being said, I am all for high resolution 2d platforming, and I hope that Castlevania is next.
posted by BobbyDigital at 11:44 AM on February 4, 2010


East Manitoba - Oh wow. That link makes me so sad. The guy's about ready to slice wrists over some rings that might be the wrong size!

There's a chance I'll finally get around to grabbing a 360 if this project turns out like it ought to. This series was the shit and I was a spin-dashing ninja back in the day. I hope there's an online race mode so I can run chumps into the ground.

(the episodic thing is not a thing i would be wild about, though)
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:50 AM on February 4, 2010


None of this "Eggman" crap either. He's Dr. Robotnik.
qft

not sure how this is going to work with the xbox pad, though. Up down left right (a) (x) (b) (x) (a)+(start) before he waves his finger ... no, I think I can manage that.
posted by bonaldi at 11:56 AM on February 4, 2010


That being said, I am all for high resolution 2d platforming, and I hope that Castlevania is next.

Am i the only one who really wants high res HD remakes of classic rpgs? everything from Planescape to Final Fantasy VI. make a 1080p version with real quality analog art style sprites and you'll have one happy shmegegge.
posted by shmegegge at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2010


(I don't think all the 3D Sonics were bad though; I loved one of the Dreamcast ones, just can't remember if it was Sonic Adventure I or II)
posted by bonaldi at 11:57 AM on February 4, 2010


Mining nostalgia has been really profitable for the industry lately.

Maybe it's nostalgia. Or maybe it's possible that human nature hasn't changed so much since 1991 that a game that was fun then could still be fun now.

Do you suppose the Super Bowl is all about mining nostalgia for the 19th century?
posted by straight at 12:06 PM on February 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


Mario and Sonic's Awkward Reunion
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 12:25 PM on February 4, 2010


Do you suppose the Super Bowl is all about mining nostalgia for the 19th century?

I think nostalgia for gladiatorial bloodsport goes back a bit further than that.
posted by FatherDagon at 12:31 PM on February 4, 2010


For those wondering about Castlevania, here is a trailer for Castlevaina: Lords of Shadow, which will be released later this year. It is being developed by Kojima Productions, of Metal Gear fame.
posted by joedan at 1:00 PM on February 4, 2010


My prediction for headlines when this finally comes out:

Aging gamers discover nostalgia outlives twitch reflexes
posted by Decimask at 3:13 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Am I the only one that thought Mega Man 9 was ridiculously, unplayably hard? And I can still pick up most of the NES Mega Man titles and get most of the way through them to this day, so I don't just plain suck at video games. I'm apparently not the twitchy freak they designed Mega Man 9 for, though.

It is challenging, but there are definitely NES Mega Man games that are harder. Probably the first game is harder in fact.

The important thing for Sega to get right here, something that is absolutely essential to all the mainline Genesis Sonic games but almost no one seems to talk about, is the physics. Sonic is not a game about running fast. It is a game of moving quickly, in a realistic manner, a character who can turn into a ball at will. That is why pinball levels work for Sonic, that is why the half pipes and loop-de-loops work, that is why jumping on enemies feels so satisfying (and why that homing attack button is out of place; it destroys the momentum Sonic has built up to that point and replaces it with the homing attack animation), and it is why the GBA and DS 2D Sonic games, for their strengths, are inferior to the Genesis ones.

For those wondering about Castlevania, here is a trailer for Castlevaina: Lords of Shadow, which will be released later this year. It is being developed by Kojima Productions, of Metal Gear fame.

Wrong thread for this. Classic Castlevania is ten times the game of any modern 3D incarnation of the series. Castlevania Adventure Rebirth is a step in the right direction, but Konami largely seems to have forgotten what made the NES games so damn enjoyable. Symphony of the Night has already been remade to death on the DS; let's get a true extension of the old games.

Those of you saying that this is all nostalgia, I think there an element to that yet, but there are some design elements of the NES games that have been forgotten, or ignored, today. Mega Man 9 got them right while also appealing to the player's memories of his childhood. That is why we still talk about that game.

I can plow through Megaman 1-3, but 4-6 are just plain too hard for me.

The problem with those games is that Mega Man's arsenal has expanded to include charge shots and slides by that time, and so the game expects you to use them. The simplicity of the early games is a large part of their appeal; the extra commands make the game needlessly complex.

filthy light thief: "Son, I Crush" is great.
posted by JHarris at 3:43 PM on February 4, 2010


To think that the success of NSMBWii is largely a result of nostalgia is a huge mistake. That game ressurrected classic Mario for a whole new generation. It sold 3 million copies in December alone. And it's 4-player coop is remarkably well-integrated. People LOVE co-op gaming, but it's generally ignored. L4D is good example of this. I still remember how incredibly fun playing Secret of Mana co-op was (and how devastating it was to learn that Secret of Evermore dumped this functionality). Even ostensibly multiplayer games obsess over including a single-player campaign, and frequently fail to provide a co-op option. It's bizarre how few games offer this experience. Here I am twiddling my thumbs till 2012 for D3 to give me my co-op RPG fix.

Designers other than Nintendo tend to forget that there are often other people in the room with the gamer. We are not all nerdy loners, and most of us do have large skill gaps in our house. Sometimes you can't play competitive video games with your siblings or kids, because either you trounce them or they trounce you and one of you gets their feelings hurt. :) Even games like Mass Effect or Dragon Age could have had split-screen multiplayer tacked on console versions easily, with nothing lost (other than the joy of wrestling with teammate AI).
posted by mek at 4:26 PM on February 4, 2010


I actually really missed the slide in 9. It would have greatly simplified a few sections.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:14 PM on February 4, 2010


Let me expand upon my graphics v. fun rant:

I'm not saying 3D gaming can't be fun. Obviously it can be. What I'm saying is that 3D has this unfortunate effect of combining serious gameplay challenges with exponential increases in development difficulty. The iterative process which we *know* yields fun games (no, that's not fun, try this. No, that's not fun, try this. Repeat) is hijacked by "texture pop on level 5" or "camera wrong on level 6" or "physics engine yields game-ending condition on level 7".

There's only so many bugs that can be fixed, and "this game totally isn't fun" just never seems to be addressed.

This by the way is why I most enjoy XBox Live Arcade. The production values are high enough to get people to do dev, but not so high that a crazy amount of rasterbation can be justified. Do you remember how long Geometry Wars was the best selling XBox game? That game was *fun*!

Fun is subjective, yes. But there seems to be a real result in which Nintendo and Valve make fun games and other companies better left unnamed simply do not. My contention is that other companies simply do not do the obsessive playtesting that Nintendo does, because their "polish" budget is consumed with the various unique difficulty 3D gaming forces. Perspective management is hard. Custom shaders are hard. Physics engines are really really hard.

There are also, put simply, the performance walls. Doom could render ten imps without a problem. Doom 3 could only render one zombie at a time well. They built the game around this limitation, but you know? It was not fun compared to the original Doom. Frankly, it wasn't fun at all.

It's worth mentioning there's another factor at play: Costs are so high with 3D gaming, for all the art and such, that management really can't take that many risks. So potentially fun features, that have really long balancing cycles, just get cut -- or worse, get shipped without the balancing that makes them meaningful. So you get crazy, expensive to develop features, that are ignored because they're meaningless in the context of the game.

Should you use the super powered rifle or the shotgun? It depends. Is the shotgun ineffective enough at range? Does the super powered rifle have too high of a kickback? Is the shotgun weak or strong? Does the rifle require the user to stop moving or not? I was in a conversation with somebody about Modern Warfare 2: "Yeah, the sniper rifle is useless, almost always its better to put a scope on an assault rifle." Overall, MW2 is quite fun -- but note, the fun that might come from choosing sniper v. assault rifle is lost.

Meanwhile, Starcraft, with ten years of playtest into it, is the national sport of South Korea.
posted by effugas at 6:24 PM on February 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


Giving it more though, I think I'm totally up for some 16x9, modernized 2-D So-Nice The Hedgehog goodness. If it's half as fun as New Super Mario Brothers (I prefer the DS version because it's considerably easier than the Wii version, but they're both quite awesome), I'll snag it release week.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:57 PM on February 4, 2010


mek: "To think that the success of NSMBWii is largely a result of nostalgia is a huge mistake. That game ressurrected classic Mario for a whole new generation. It sold 3 million copies in December alone. And it's 4-player coop is remarkably well-integrated. People LOVE co-op gaming, but it's generally ignored."

I agree completely, it's a very well-done game. However, you're wrong. It's NOT by any means a co-op game. It is profoundly a VS. game. It's possible to play with 2 people without *too* much trouble, but you get four people on the screen and there is player-killing mayhem all over the place.

straight: "Maybe it's nostalgia. Or maybe it's possible that human nature hasn't changed so much since 1991 that a game that was fun then could still be fun now."

I'm not saying the recent spate of 2d games are bad games, but they are thriving on the fact that a significant chunk of gamers grew up on the originals. Calling this Sonic 4 is a strict marketing decision, designed to link it to the three most successful and beloved Sonic games.
posted by graventy at 9:15 PM on February 4, 2010


graventy,

I don't think it's all just nostalgia. 2D platforming really can be more fun than 3D. Bionic Commando Reloaded was way better received than Bionic Commando, for instance. And Shadow Complex falls down every time it remembers its a 3D game (for example, they delay the main character jumping while they draw him jumping, and lets not even talk about when he's supposed to "shoot into the background").

There are entire classes of "it doesn't do what I want it to" bugs that just didn't happen in NES and SNES games. For example, the use of the universal "action" button, that sometime runs for cover, sometimes picks something up, sometimes opens a door -- complexity on this scale just didn't used to exist. I'm not saying cover isn't a fun mechanic, but there's "i got shot because I jumped at the wrong time" and there's "i got shot because it picked up a gun instead of ducking behind the crate".
posted by effugas at 9:26 PM on February 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying it's all nostalgia, but I think a significant chunk will buy simply based on the direct sequel aspect. The whole damn gaming industry revolves around name brands, now. That's why there were rumors for a bit that NSMB Wii was going to be called Super Mario 4.

Bionic Commando Reloaded was way better received than Bionic Commando, for instance.

That's not entirely fair, though, because from most accounts Bionic Commando (the new one) sucked. It wasn't because those were equal quality games, and the 2D one just played better. I think part of the problem is that 3D is much harder to program for. It's gotten better, I think, but no one has mastered the dynamic camera.

Shadow Complex was a great game, in part because it was an 'homage' to Super Metroid's power-up/explore system. This can be done well in 3D; by all accounts Arkham Asylum did it. At times SC used the extra dimension in cool ways, but it was more 2.5D than anything. The 'shooting into background' misfires didn't bother me any more than the 'libruls take over America' "plot".
posted by graventy at 9:01 AM on February 5, 2010


Shadow Complex was a great game, in part because it was an 'homage' to Super Metroid's power-up/explore system. This can be done well in 3D; by all accounts Arkham Asylum did it.

I think that was true with the original Super Mario 64 as well. The 2D Mario games were mostly about platforming, but there were also a lot of secrets and exploration/puzzle aspects to them as well (especially in the later ones), so the transition into 3D worked. Other successful early 3D platformers like Tomb Raider put the emphasis on exploration as well.

The 2D Sonic games were much more twitch-based, and that just doesn't seem to work very well in full 3D platformer. Sega's other 2D games that were more exploration heavy (like Echo The Dolphin) made the transition to 3D much more easily. So although Sega added a lot of exploration aspects to their later 3D Sonic games, it didn't really capture any of the aspects that made the original Sonic games fun.
posted by burnmp3s at 9:24 AM on February 5, 2010


That's not entirely fair, though, because from most accounts Bionic Commando (the new one) sucked. It wasn't because those were equal quality games, and the 2D one just played better. I think part of the problem is that 3D is much harder to program for. It's gotten better, I think, but no one has mastered the dynamic camera.

whoa whoa whoa. let's be clear, here. the bionic commando non-remake game DID suck, but BOTH were 3d. the reason the 3d xbla remake was better was because it was pretty much a direct level for level remake of one of the best games of all time, with some minor gameplay and interface twitches done to appease modern gamers. (you can jump in the remake, for instance. the remake is actually quite a bit easier.) the new one was terrible for a lot of reasons, but the camera isn't the big one. it just wasn't fun, and they made a lot of arbitrary decisions in the level design that frustrate the hell out of everyone who played it. for instance, they put some kind of radioactive cloud at the top and bottom of the map so that if you swing too high or too low you just die all of a sudden. that's not because it was 3d. that's because they made a very very bad level design decision.

so, about the 3d thing again:

look, the work that goes into making a 3d game is certainly more than it took to make 2d games. that's absolutely true. and what the result of that has been is not that games get worse as fun gets left by the wayside because they're too worried about texture pop. that's simply a silly and totally baseless argument. what HAS happened in dev studios with the advent of 3d is that game development is now more expensive and involves way more people. but the actual game process of worrying about what's fun and what isn't is still there. It's the department that tells the guys who worry about the 3d what to do. some companies aren't good at it, but they ARE trying.

look at Fallout 3. there are purists who hate it, I suppose, but the overwhelming majority of people who have played Fallout 3 think it's one of the best games ever made. hell, I played the shit out of Fallouts 1 and 2, and I love Fallout 3 like it was my child. the original Fallout 3 being worked on by what was left of the original team got stalled for years as a 2d project, and Bethesda turned out a totally new, game-of-the-year title in a fraction of the time it took the original version to fail.

the 1st metal gear solid, for the psx? beats the shit out of the old nes game, and that nes game was fantastic.

also, Doom 3 was fun. It was scary as hell and adrenalized and fun as hell. It wasn't revolutionary or anything the way, say, Braid was, but that doesn't mean it wasn't fun.

last, I'm pretty tired of hearing people be like "3d games are missing that certain something, look at fps or fps or fps or fps." I know the first 3d games were fps games. I know. but 3d and fps are not synonymous. anyone who thinks super mario 64 wasn't fun is out of their minds. spore? 3d. civilization 4? 3d. every rpg released on a non-mobile platform in the last 10 years? 3d. Warcraft 3, the last few command and conquers, the coming Starcraft II. railroad tycoon. devil may cry. rock band, guitar hero. the top rated games on every platform that can do 3d (with a few notable exceptions), all of them are 3d.

2d is awesome. 2d rocks my fucking socks. there's not enough of it in the marketplace and I want more of it. But 3d is also awesome. 3d also rocks my fucking socks. 3d is way fun and developing in 3d does not reduce the fun.
posted by shmegegge at 9:38 AM on February 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


an amendment:

that came out more grar than I meant it. in my head, i'm not feeling grar about it and the tone of voice was all conversational in my head. but reading it back I think it might sound hostile. so let me say that I'm not trying to be hostile and I don't want anyone to think I'm being all "YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT!" also, "silly and baseless" was harsher than I intended it. I meant to say "this isn't really the case." so there you go.
posted by shmegegge at 10:04 AM on February 5, 2010


what HAS happened in dev studios with the advent of 3d is that game development is now more expensive and involves way more people. but the actual game process of worrying about what's fun and what isn't is still there. It's the department that tells the guys who worry about the 3d what to do. some companies aren't good at it, but they ARE trying

But isn't the process fundamentally different when it's a huge team with different departments rather than a small core group or even a single programmer doing the whole thing themselves? It would be as if the music industry moved from simple three minute acoustic guitar songs written, performed and recorded by a single musician, to entire albums written and performed by a small group and recorded by a few technicians, to massive 20+ hour long epic concept albums thought up by management, written and performed by dozens of different people, and recorded in surround-sound with a full-length music video for it. With any kind of project, as the process gets more complicated and more people become involved, it's a lot harder to focus on the overall fundamentals rather than all of the individual complexities.
posted by burnmp3s at 11:44 AM on February 5, 2010


But isn't the process fundamentally different when it's a huge team with different departments rather than a small core group or even a single programmer doing the whole thing themselves?

It certainly is, and there's absolutely something to be said for smaller boutiques creating 2d games.

but the difference isn't that fun or gameplay fundamentals get lost in the equation. fun is still front and center. the difference is, as you said, that there are management and labor division concerns being introduced. but they're not problematic if you have the right team. they're just expensive.

consider bioware, whose most recent efforts are 3d tours de force with all the baggage that comes with massive endeavors like that. but their fundamentals in these games are as strong as when they were doing their smaller budgeted 2d rpgs like baldur's gate. on top of that, they're taking the time to create whole worlds of their own invention (going through the supplemental texts of Dragon Age and Mass Effect, for instance, is a lot like reading the supplemental AD&D world books for systems like Forgotten Realms or Dragon Lance) with rich detail if you choose to look for it, whereas before they were working off of other people's IP. their work hasn't suffered for the shift in scope, it has expanded. it has also, however, gotten much much more expensive to produce.

but, more to your point, you'll also find that some people whose work excelled in 2d have difficulty managing the shift to 3d, and should perhaps have kept themselves working at the boutique level, rather than chasing after some epic idea of what a game should be. and that's something worth remembering. more importantly, it's worth remembering that getting caught up in churning out some massive complicated epic can hurt what would have been a perfect boutique game. I'm reminded of Brutal Legend, about which I've heard good and bad things. And the bad seemed to center around BL not knowing what kind of game it was and trying to do too much.

but again, i don't see this as a problem with making the step into 3d. I see it as a problem with management, and one that can happen in any process. I mean, Tim Schaeffer was a 2d adventure guy to his core. But his 1st move into 3d with Grim Fandango was incredible. Psychonauts was likewise stellar. It seems to me that the problem is one of mindset.

there are certainly dev teams and producers who just go balisitic with the visuals and are basically gaming's Michael Bay. We have far far too many of those. But on the other hand, sometimes those guys bring something pretty excellent to market despite being such shameless action movie fx fests. Gears of War is about as generic as you get, for everything BUT their gameplay. plot, characterization, tone, VO, the works. it's all boilerplate space marine drek. But god damn if the firefights in that game weren't engaging as all hell. My friends and I did co-op missions in that game over and over again just because they were fun.

so yeah, the things you point out CAN be problems. and scale is something a good game needs to be careful of. but it's not inherent to 3d. it's just part of the industry's relentless need to make the next prettiest thing, and that's been a problem since the atari days.
posted by shmegegge at 12:05 PM on February 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Part of the problem is nostalgia. The games I remember from childhood are Super Mario Brother 3, Tetris, Zelda 1 and 2, Blaster Master, Monster Bash, Mega Man, Contra, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, Maniac Mansion, and the like. Good games. But any time spent playing random NES roms or just random old DOS games will demonstrate that the vast majority of video games from the pre-3D era were terrible. On a 1-10 quality scale, the NES's library probably evens out to about a 2 or 3. We complain about shovelware now, but shovelware used to be the norm. The whole "modern games just aren't as good" mantra comes from comparing the average modern game to a nostalgia-tinted idealization of the best games of twenty or thirty years ago, and it's extremely silly and counterproductive.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:43 PM on February 5, 2010


the bionic commando non-remake game DID suck, but BOTH were 3d.

Yeah, sorry, that's a fair point. I own the remake, but I didn't play very much of it. The new fully 3D one got wife-armed, and a big part of the problem besides the goofy plot was the illusion of freedom. Look at this entirely open city; you can go anywhere! (Going anywhere but east will kill you)

2D games were (are) great, but 3D ones have been pretty damn fantastic as well. Games are great. I have yet to play a bad game in the core Mario series. Not one.
posted by graventy at 3:13 PM on February 5, 2010


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