Mach5Mike's Love Letter to Platformers
- Originally written as an entry for the g1 Tournament created by MisterBo, this entry focuses on what I love (and don't love) about the platforming genre, and also lists a few of my favorite platformers.
- Note: Please disregard anything on this blog that has to do with voting, this was an old blog, the voting period has already passed (but still feel free to comment if you liked it), and was posted primarily to test how blogging works on the New ScrewAttack.
If I were forced to play only one game for the rest of my life, it would have to be some game under the platformer genre. As for what game that would be, I can’t give you a definite answer right now. I was originally going to go the history lesson route with my entry, then changed my mind when I started thinking about why I love platformers so much, and I have a lot of experience with platformers over any other genre of games that I play, so I figured why not make this one a little more personal? So, what do I love about platformers? Well, get comfortable, since this might take a while:
The Simple and Tight Controls
Who would have thought that actions such as walking/running and jumping would make for such amazing games? Well, I didn’t until I played one for the first time; I believe it was Super Mario 64. When I play my games, I want the actual game to be the challenge, not figuring out how to play. Another thing that makes a good platformer is the pace of difficulty. While the first few levels you can finish without trying too hard, the difficulty will gradually increase and by the time you're towards the end of the game, you'll have to time and calculate your movements correctly or else you're starting the entire level (or in some games, the entire game if you don't have a password or haven't saved in a while), but luckily, a good platformer also has tight controls. However, it also means you can't blame the game every time you lose a life.
The Unforgettable Characters
Most of my (and probably a lot of other g1s) favorite video game characters made their debut in a platformer. Many went on to become some of the most beloved game franchises that will ever exist; one of them broke down barriers that paved the way for future heroines in games. One character would make us think how can a platform game be considered such if the character doesn’t jump. However, other characters would have a strong start in their franchise, then try a different direction in certain gameplay mechanics, and end up becoming shells of their former selves. Some would make triumphant return after years of downtime, looking to reclaim their territories in the industry; some would succeed and continue to make great games, yet others just couldn’t pull it together and once again become lost to the memory of time (but they will still remain alive in the hearts of their avid fans). Here’s just a small list of some of my favorite characters that made platforming games fun to play:
- Mario & Luigi
- Donkey Kong
- Samus Aran
- Sonic The Hedgehog
- Crash Bandicoot
- Spyro The Dragon
- Mega Man
- Rad Spencer (aka the Bionic Commando)
- Earthworm Jim
- Jak and Daxter
- Ratchet and Clank
- Sly Cooper
The Memorable Music
Just like the characters, most of my favorite songs from games came from platformers. I can’t think of any other way to explain why I love these songs than just letting the music do the talking instead. These songs aren’t my only favorites, just a few of them. I am no pro when it comes to YouTube embeds, and I’m kind of short on time right now, so I unfortunately can only provide links to the videos:
- Overworld (Super Mario Bros.) and Athletic (Super Mario Bros. 3)
- File Select and Slider (Super Mario 64)
- Marble Zone (What, you expected Green Hill Zone?)(Sonic The Hedgehog) and Ice Cap Zone - Act 1 (Sonic The Hedgehog 3)
- Planet Wisp - Act 1 (Sonic Colors) and Rooftop Run - Day (Sonic Unleashed)
- Simian Segue and Jungle Hijinx (Donkey Kong Country)
- Spiral Mountain (Banjo-Kazooie)
- Brinstar - The Jungle Floor (Super Metroid)
- Yoshi's Song (Yoshi’s Story)
- Green Greens (Kirby’s Dream Land)
- Warp Room (Crash Bandicoot 3: Warped)
- Zip and Redial (Bomberman Hero)
- B'Doing Woods and Pinky's Revenge (Pac-Man World 2)
- Wood Man Stage (Mega Man 2); chose this one just for you Woodyman! (Just out of curiosity Woodyman, is this your favorite Robot Master theme?) and Splash Woman Stage (Mega Man 9)
I would love to say that I love everything about platformers, but unfortunately, there’s just one problem in these games that I have yet to fall in love with. Hopefully a few g1s may have been able to predict what I’m about to talk about, but for those who don’t, I’m referring to:
So, why exactly do I hate water levels in platformers (or in most games)? Well, I’ve given it some thought and narrowed it down to three reasons. The first is that often times, water levels somewhat slow down the pace of the game, which is usually done by forcing you to swim (at a speed noticeably slower than your running speed) throughout most or the entire level. These levels also remove some of your character’s main and most useful ability; often meaning you can’t jump on or over enemies, and must either swim around them or use a modified version of an attack you already have, but it’s not as useful when you’re underwater. And let’s not forget about how annoying underwater boss fights can be when your usual speed and agility advantages over the boss are gone. Probably the most frustrating part about water levels would have to be that you have to constantly be aware of how much time you can spend underwater before losing a life, and it doesn’t help when the game starts telling you that you’re low on air when it plays jingles like this: Drowning Theme (Sonic The Hedgehog 3). I hope I didn’t make it sound like water levels are an abomination in games, I eventually finish the levels, and it's not like they ruin the rest of the game.
Now that I’ve gotten that little bit out of the way, let’s get back to the love shall we? Since I’ve already talked about the different aspects I love about platformers, I’d like to take this time to give shout outs to some of my favorite platforming games. Before I get to that, I feel I must let you in on something: I don’t own every console in existence or have the time or money to play every good game; I’m completely aware that there will be some games missing on here that I did not acknowledge, and it’s because I have not played the game (like any of the Mega Man or games as of right now, shocking/disappointing I know, but I do plan to buy Mega Man 1-3, 9, and X when I have the money for them. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about Metroid or Super Metroid because I do not own them yet either. I do have Metroid Prime, but I’m not a big fan of the first-person platforming, so I'm not going to talk about it), or I do not know the game’s existence. (instead of calling me something like depraved since I don’t know about the game, why not say something like “you should try this game” instead?) Also, in an attempt to save room for other well deserving games and I feel like I would be walking with a crutch that I honestly believe I can do well/better without, I am not going to go into detail about how much I love the Mario games. Just so it doesn’t look like I’m completely abandoning Mario, my favorite 2D game is Super Mario Bros. 3, and my favorite 3D game is Super Mario Galaxy 2. I will use them to provide examples, but not as separate shout outs. Before readers get angry, let me give my rationale. I’m a die hard Mario fan, but honestly, everyone knows how awesome Mario games are, however, everyone should also know that there are other good platformers out there to play besides Mario. With that being said, let’s get to the shout outs:
If you’re wondering why Banjo-Kazooie isn’t here, read the third sentence in the paragraph above this one. Moving right along, this game is probably my second favorite platformer on the Nintendo 64 next to, well, hopefully you know what game came in first. What I really loved about this game was the sense of exploration I got out of the game; the best way I am able to describe the gameplay is a mix between Super Mario 64 (the diverse worlds which offered lots of diverse challenges that weren’t just limited to platforming, like first-person shooting J) and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (a huge world to explore with lots of optional side quests for the completionists; I’m still working on finding those last few Jiggies and Jinjos). I never was a big fan of cutscenes in games either until I played this game. I think one of my favorite lines in the game was in the opening cutscene, where Banjo and company all mourns for their friend Bottles’ death, only for Kazooie to break up the moment and the fourth wall while she’s at it by saying “he wasn’t the favorite character in Banjo-Kazooie anyway”. The only bad thing I have to say about this game is that it never got a true sequel. I don’t care who makes Banjo-Threeie (scratch that, I mean anyone except Rare can make the game), as long as it’s done right and looks and plays like a Banjo game, I will be satisfied.
Pac-Man World 2 & Bomberman Hero
I grouped these two games together is because I love them for the same reason: the franchises that both games come from did not start out as platformers, but instead took certain aspects (in Bomberman’s case, it was dropping bombs to blow up your enemies without blowing yourself up, and in Pac-Man’s case, it was eating Pac Dots and Power Pellets to eat ghosts) from their original games and did a decent job of making them work in a 3D platformer, kind of like how the Mario Kart games took almost everything from the Mario platformer games and made an amazing racing game spinoff series. An extra bonus in Pac-Man World 2 was the incentive to find all of the tokens in each level, as doing so would allow you to play classic Pac-Man arcade games (Pac-Man, Pac-Attack, Pac-Mania, and Mrs. Pac-Man); don’t forget about the new mazes that were unlocked by collecting Galaxians (classic Namco game cameos yay!) found in almost every level that paid homage to the original arcade game too!
Crash Bandicoot: The Wrath of Cortex
As the first Crash game that I have owned (I have also played the original and Crash 3), I felt this one was the best out of the four. However, the reviewers didn’t think the same way. The game got a lot of bad scores for a lot of reasons other games get low scores: too repetitive, nothing new from the game’s predecessors, all that annoying stuff that I hate reviewers for. I honestly don’t understand why they hated the game so much; to me, the game had all I wanted out of a Crash game: collecting Power Crystals, and then going back to complete death routes to collect all of the Gems to complete the game 101%, spinning like crazy to send anything that comes in your way flying, and of course, accidentally blowing up those “conveniently” placed TNT crates :D. The game also introduced Crunch Bandicoot, who was one of my favorite characters in the series before he was turned into an anamorphic parody of Mr. T; to make matters worse, a similar fate would fall upon every character in the franchise :(
Sonic The Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles and Sonic Colors
Yes, I refused to talk about Mario games yet I will talk about Sonic games. In my opinion, Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Sonic Colors gave me the best of what 2D and 3D Sonic games had to offer, and offer they did. With Sonic 3 & Knuckles, you had all of the amazing gameplay elements that made Sonic 2 a joy to play, and added on top of that new abilities, and continued the trend of adding a new character (or characters) to the cast, this time with Knuckles; too bad this was his only game where his unique abilities of floating and climbing added to the gameplay, meaning I hated his treasure hunting sections in the Adventure games. In the case of Sonic Colors, the blazing fast gameplay from the 360/PS3 version of Sonic Unleashed (come on, the Werehog sections weren't that terrible) was toned down significantly, an improvement that would allow for you to actually see where you're going and have time to react to everything you're about to run into. This game also marked the first time in a long time in many Sonic fan's minds where the gimmick of the game doesn't detract from Sonic's gameplay, but rather adds to it (my personal favorite Wisp would probably be the Pink one, I haven't been able to Spin Dash in a 3D Sonic game since Adventure 2!)
When I first looked at this game (note that I was around six when this game was released), I looked down upon it for the same reason I love this game today, which was the unique art style that made me feel like each level was the creation of an elementary school art class (that was a compliment despite the way it sounds in writing), and this new direction in art styles fortunately carried over into other Nintendo franchises like Kirby (Epic Yarn) and The Legend of Zelda (Wind Waker and Skyward Sword); hopefully this trend will continue, these kinds of art styles are one of the reasons why I love Nintendo games!
Well, I think that covers just about everything I wanted to say about platformers. If you loved what you read (hopefully you read all of it) then vote for it, or vote for Water Shocker's entry if you liked it better. Win or lose, I just had a lot of fun writing this entry!