The snes games:
Nosferatu and Actraiser, Actraiser 2 primarily, and others like MegaMan X,
secret of mana, castlevania 3, earthworm Jim, turtles in time, Aladdin, zombies ate my neighbors,
Street fighter 2, double dragon, final fight 3, battle toads, …
The Sega Genesis games:
Shinobi 3, Eternal Champions, Streets of rage 2, power rangers, Polter-guy, Aladdin (once again), comix zone, toe jam and earl, Batman and Robin, vectorman, X-men, super wrestle mania, Batman, maximum carnage
The Ps1 Games:
Xeno gears, Twisted metal 2, fighting force, resident evil 1&2, dinocrisis 2, syphon filter2, rpg maker, g police, wild arms, medieval 2, parasite Eve,
Original Xbox games:
Enter the matrix, splinter cell, Jet set radio future, fable, brute force, jade empire, the suffering, dead or alive 2, mercenaries, marvel vs capcom2, timesplitters 2, ninja gaiden, devil may cry 2, crimson skies, red dead revolver
The N64 games:
Body harvest, 007, star fox, perfect dark, duke nukem, turok, pilot wings, Star Wars shadows of the empire,
2D side-scrolling video games, including plat-formers, fighting games, and even simple rpgs have always been the natural in game design when resources are limited. Since resources are always limited, but in gaming they used to be REALLY limited, it’s no surprise that these were the most numerous kinds of games were at the forefront of game design at the dawn of the gaming industry. From MS-DOS, floppy discs, and dial-up, to Xbox—some of the best gaming franchises in the history of computing did little more than take a handful of memorable looking figures and slap them onto a box, like Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, or Battle-Toads, with a catchy title for display in the store, and tv and comic book ads.
In the late 80’s, 90’s, and early 2000’s we made due with what we had, compared to today’s gaming possibilities, so we knew words like “pixels” and “lagging.” Games used to “freeze” and sometimes you had to “blow” on them. CDs didn’t hold too much data, so some games, like Final Fantasy, would come with 3 or 4 separate discs—and there were no patches or downloading after purchasing. What you got at the store is what you had.
But we didn’t care. We were just as obsessed with our pixelated adventures and exploration and combat as… well maybe not as much as gamers today, but the point is that we loved it. We got fanatical about it. Obsessive. Thinking about gaming was all-consuming, at least coming from a little boy’s perspective in the era, and something about the iconography of these 2D side-scrolling games give me greater pleasure than I think is evoked by today’s video gaming landscapes. The icons endure, Mario is the same, and Scorpion and Sub-Zero are still around, doing their thing… but the Call of Duty era of gamer is a different breed, and their is admittedly cross-over with any type of fandom, but at this point in human history, well… there’s only so many hours in a day.
There are so many things to spend one’s time on… more newer things, than ever, and there are great things in the past there’ll never be enough time to get to. So why? Why dwell upon the past?
As an ode to that, an homage to that era… maybe to let it go. Maybe to tip my hat to the achievements and the profound love invoked in me, and then to move on.
Gamers are like movie fans in that we talk about these projects and franchises as if we’re industry executives. We know what projects made, financially, and we hear rumors of humiliating flops, and unexpected super stars. We have our different tastes, come awards season. We know developers names, and we are aware of reputations. I think there’s a fantasy there, in all of us, the audience, to be allowed to call some shots, just one time, on a project, like a bit Hollywood production, or on our own idea for a game, an album, comic, or live performance of some kind.
Mine have been varied, I’ve had little ideas here and there like anybody, I can critique scenes in movies, and maybe suggest a thing or two I’d have done differently or otherwise… but I have always been aware enough to know what a massive undertaking a big budget Hollywood movie production, or a flagship game must be, to never be too critical. Whenever people are too vicious, with something maybe I thought actually had a lot of heart, or honest endeavor put into it, I like to say something in retort akin to: “oh yeah, and how’s your movie going?” or “and what season are you on of your hot hit series, to which you can lecture everybody on how to cast, script, and direct in show biz?”
My consistent day dream, though, was jotted down over time… because I knew there can always be more planning… and if you merely stayed consistent, and developed mechanisms of organization, in notes and manuscripts, you could plan out exactly how you want everything to be produced, and all it takes is ink, time, and thought. An expensive education might have been better, and picking a field and branching off organically might have been more advisable, but as a day dream it never was a job, and so I tried a whole bunch of other things in life, and kept the ideas on the back burner—but still diligently jotting down notes and ideas across time, if any occurred to me. Getting struck with an idea is one thing, but after dozens and dozens over years and years, the real trick is to concurrently develop systems for managing and organizing for yourself. Having breakthroughs in how you systematize and title your collected ideas can be as important and rewarding as some of the best ideas were (in the raw form, which forced you out of bed, or to pull over in traffic to scribe down in your phone or notepad).
So, to wrap it all up, I think a good solution to the revitalization of the low-budget, 2D side-scroller is to make a gameplay mechanic where the scene flashes through different segments, quickly, for example, instead of a classic plat-former level in duration, the gameplay lasts for only about an obstacle, maybe two or three at most, and then a transfer of scene, in a flash, to another setting, playing another character, with different abilities, showcasing a different point in the game (mechanically and story wise).
Now, the issue here is… consistency to the character, quickly returning to the first character, maybe for starters there are only two characters playable, and we are transferring instead across the timeline… to places where abilities keep equipment for example have been unlocked, and then returning to more primitive states… so a younger and older, semi-permanent state, or a save-state, for each character.
For instance, say the first character in the first playable instance of that character, let’s say he’s called “young character” showcases a simple plat-former, attack and block, maybe, is all you are able to input, and maybe the next ability for input you unlock is a ‘double jump’.
So, let’s say your “young character” is able to jump over a chasm, and then block an attacking skeletal soldier, and then swing his weapon to neutralize the skeletal soldier. He then encounters a second gulf, in which instance he encounters a textual event which informs the player how to ‘double-jump’, which is the only way to make it to the other side of the second chasm. After this second platforming stunt is achieved, the exit door reached, the scene and setting shifts suddenly, in a flash instant:
And maybe now you are the ‘older character,’ and so a version of the character more advanced down the storyline, and you are showcasing where this character will be, after many more upgrades similar to this ‘double-jump’ just added to your arsenal of inputs. Now, your character hardly has to walk, as he has developed large mechanical wings, which he can jump at a whim high into the air and then glide across the landscape, avoiding most of the platforming dangers, and able to strike enemies from above, surprising targets and with good timing untouchable by the enemy hordes.
And then, not only can we alternate after stretches of 2D side-scrolling bits, from the younger and older character, and to merchants and in-between gameplay bits, menu min-maxing and organizing, it is key now to switch to an alternate character altogether, starting with a Nosferatu-style, evil character intro.
Each start out with clunky movement. Once you have unlocked some ability to free up your movement, you will be much more free to move around and play like a Mega Man X full scale action platformer rpg (as you are acquiring upgrades in the form of armor or health boosts, dash boots, weapons modifications and enhancements). The slower this achievement process, at least for one of the iterations of the playable characters, the more successful the atmosphere will be, I think.
When you’re playing a clunky, low level character you more than notice it. You go from leaping back and forth at break-neck speeds, jumping off of walls, dashing and double-jumping in mid air—to a memory of earlier on in your career, when you couldn’t even change directions without a little short animation, and when you started to run it took a little warm-up animation, and to stop too abruptly their was another little animation. When you punch, the timing is a little off at first, a second or two delayed. And when you get hit you get shocked at first, maybe knocked over a lot, with improvement you don’t fall over, but you are locked from input for a second or two, and then eventually you can ear damage without any animation or input effect on your character.
You learn to block more competently, throw objects more precisely, grapple, counter, dash-attack, and jump-attack. You learn armaments. You start to collect armaments. You start to collect hideouts.
Game mechanics: when you reach the end of the small segment of level, it flashes and you’re back to the left side of the screen again, as another character, perhaps, or in another level… playing as that big bald-headed Templar with the huge Crusader sword… who form of gameplay doesn’t have anything much to do with platforming, or concerns of jumping over channels, or jumping from little platform to platform, but instead to swinging that two-handed weapon and dispatching 5 undead enemies at once.
So, having re-appeared at the left-hand side of the screen, within this new little stretch of level, the Templar can block and perform maybe a single or a two-strike combo, and then the next segment of level is like Actraiser 2, it’s best performed utilizing the mechanical Angel wings and flying above-ground, fighting enemies and gathering items from the platforms above. One segment you were the young character for a few obstacles, you walked through the door, and then you were the older character, in the future, who proceeds past a few obstacles, and the you’re the evil character, a few obstacles, a stretch of level, and now you’re the Templar, etc, etc.
… and now maybe it’s a western, rather than medieval, temporarily, or ancient, jumping ahead far into the timeline, having a shoot-out in the OK Corral style segment, and then after this back to the Nosferatu, clunky and drilling a few levels to unlock movement and action-enhancing attribute upgrades, and slowly unlocking combat animation upgrades, with simple combo upgrades, very basic still, but by the end of this character-leveling system for the earliest portion of the game, then there will be a 4 to 5 hit combo, for the young character to unlock. Now, in addition to being able to get around a little easier, a little quicker, now you’re starting to be able to do some damage.
These levels turn more into beat-em-up style games, instead of platformer, and you start to come across enemies who can dish some combos back. They start approaching with a block up. However: I don’t like how in games sometimes once the enemy npc has developed an enhancement they have it uniformly and permanently… instead it maybe becomes more common for enemies, it’s not ubiquitous. You still have enemies that take one shot to take down, or stupidly drop their guard, or attempt multiple-hit combos after you’ve already jumped behind them.
The Slayer will branch out into many builds. The focus here will be on collecting animations, selecting preferences, so the slayer must look the same.
The future-slayer will give more leeway for future customizations.
The young slayer will be used for storyline elements, often pitting the young man in the future era, in the 1800’s, in America during the Wild West era and the Civil War.
The heart of the first act will be ancient and Medieval, however, with only brief glimpses of this future era.
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