Where is the Balance? The Platform Games Need to Come Back
A long time ago in a distant land known as East NY Brooklyn, there lived a young gamer who was gifted with a Sega Genesis bundle on that special day in December. It was a magical time graduating from 8 bit to 16 bit made this young gamer cheer for joy. From Altered Beast to Sonic the Hedgehog, it seems this gamer’s life will forever be bright. The balance of our gaming world was vast with Cool spot, Mortal Kombat, Battletoads and Bugsy…yes even Bugsy was welcomed for a time, but it was the balance that was memorable. However we fast forward to 2014 and now this young gamer became a Gaming Man who has to have multiple consoles to fill in that lost void. Companies like Naughty Dog grew up and turned their manimals into full on humans. The days of jumping, dip and dodging are limited to the Nintendo, unless you go into the classic marketplaces to download old titles. Why must it be left to Nintendo to keep childhoods intact with such titles like Splatoon, Pokemon and now Sonic Boom. The titles have been great, but when needing a change of pace, one should not have to switch systems.
This is where the Fun begins…
Things in the 80’s were not that complicated, but even when I had my uncles computer with Doom and Wolfenstein. I still ran towards Nintendo and Sega for was considered the “Kiddie titles”. Thanks to games like RC ProAm, Super Mario Bros, Sonic the Hedgehog and many other titles; I had a place to settle in a cute violent world. Do not get me wrong, I still ran to games like Ninja Gaiden or Top Gun, but at least I could go back to something. During the late 80’s into the 90’s we had many mascots for different consoles with vibrant imaginations with characters. Hell even Soda companies made platform games like Cool Spot. If I have any favorite platform game it would be Rocket Knight Adventures. It was a cute rodent character that was a badass in knight’s armor who could rocket up at enemies in different directions. There was even an HD remake in 2010 that made it even better. Even if they were cute characters with a simplified play style, there were some deep stories involved with some of them. I mean look at Earthworm Jim or Gex…you remember Gex? I need to mention Megaman because before the Maverick hunting he was a jumping and shooting robot saving the world. Granted not all of these cute characters were kid friendly, for example Conker, but it was the Looney Tunes dark humor that drew us closer.
The Golden years or Jump Stomps
The start of the PlayStation One, Nintendo 64 and Sega Saturn brought us from side scroll to the 3D world and it was amazing. The Sega Saturn was not too strong in this genre, but the two games that stood out the most were Clockwork Knight Series and Knights into Dreams. Nintendo was had their fair share of greats as well, but Sony took it out of the ball park with Naughty Dog debuts their platforms. The day Crash Bandicoot and Spyro came to the console was a great day by showing us two new eccentric characters. Crash was a bit of an out there kind of character with his goofy face and I want to say “wild style” with just jeans and sneakers with finger-less gloves on. This dude was tough operator and then you have Spyro who was a purple dragon with much attitude. However as an honorable mention I want to bring up Tomba, which was an action platform RPG. This game was hilarious with this pink haired jungle man taking on evil pigs. It was fun and took a lot out of your time and I was glad it was added to the PS Network.
Was this the beginning of the end?
Now we step into the Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Xbox and Gamecube era. This time around consoles are going online, but the platforms were still going strong, however deals were being made to share characters. Let’s begin with the wonderful Sega Dreamcast that blew our world with Sonic Adventure, Jet Set Radio, and Power Stone which was a fighting platform title. But that glory was not going to last long and since Sega fell to just do software. Things became a bit weird, because it felt as if a childhood friend was moving away and never coming back. Crash Bandicoot even lost its exclusive rights and went to Xbox and eventually to Nintendo, but Sony was still going strong with Naughty Dog after Crash started bouncing around with Spyro. They brought in Jak and Daxter series, but insomniac would step up too with the Ratchet and Clank series. Xbox tried to make their own mascot with Blinx, but it didn’t stick, but instead we got Master Chief as an icon for the company. The debut of Psychonauts brought in some hope with its eccentric gameplay style, but it was a hidden gem title that was getting noticed after its run. You see where I am getting at people? Sega had Sonic, Nintendo had Mario, but the big brothers didn’t try too hard to hold on to their mascots. Sony had Crash, Spyro, Jak and Ratchet. If Xbox were smart about it they could have had the cast from Jet Set Radio Future or obtained the rights to Sonic before Nintendo did, but it was too late. Nintendo got their hands on our fast friend and made him team up with Mario, but at least we get the battles we were hoping for over the years. Thanks Smash Bros.
The platform ends…at least for some
Things started off promising for the Xbox 360 and PS3 leading things off with a few interesting platform titles. The debut of Kameo on the 360 and a new Ratchet and Clank on the PS3 were a welcomed treat. The little big planet series was also a welcomed treat for party players. This was the era of the indie games though with such titles like Castle Crashers, Scott Pilgrim, Epic Mickey, certain Sonic titles, Rayman Origins and Lego series. Some of these are holding strong, but it seems they are slowly dwindling. Instead of the first party developers, we are relying on third party developers to give us some of what we had back in the day. We are also relying on the companies to release titles in the digital download stores to fill our nostalgic inside gamers. The HD remixes aren’t enough, but I already know that if something is not selling it will not produce…I still want a Kameo sequel because that game was beast.
Where is the imagination?
I have to agree with a lot of gamers out there where they feel the imagination is gone. Look at the launches for both Xbox One and PS4 with only one kiddie title on Sony called Knack, but it was pretty weak. But that’s where it technically ends on that note with the exception of Lego games and little Big Planet that recently came out. I came to this idea while working at a particular store with kids that are under ten going straight to Call of Duty, Battlefield or Grand Theft Auto. The problem is these kids do not have the middle ground or the supervision anymore to handle such titles as some of us did when we are kids. Hell I even had some people say it is weird that adults are asking for more platform titles vs. children, but even as kids we didn’t have to ask, it was just made. Things are a bit predictable now with all the FPS, racing, fighting and at times RPG’s. Why do I need to spend more money on another console to get that genre, because even though Nintendo does it justice, it still is not the same as how other developers envisioned platform games.
Hell let’s just not leave it at platform, where is the rhythm titles and even the happy go lucky puzzle titles like Bust a Move or Puzzle Fighter? It needs a return because that’s the genre that shined from Banjo to Sly-Cooper. Bring back that platform feeling; bring back the quirky story-lines and intriguing dialogue. Bring back the interesting worlds that had us exploring for orbs or pieces. Give us that underdog hero that no one had faith in, but proved them wrong in the end. Thanks to games like Sunset Overdrive and the new Mighty No 9 which both have a colorful playful tone in silly situations. It is sort of the imagination I am talking about in a cartoonish world with silly antics to take down enemies. It still borderline on the adult, but it is a start. That’s all most of us gamers are asking for.
Stay frosty gamers!