3D platform games in the new generation, is there life beyond Mario?

With a generation of consoles nearing completion, we review the most famous platform sagas in the sector in their three-dimensional aspect.

The race to the new generation of consoles implies not only the arrival of two new home systems such as PS5 and Xbox Series X, but also a fundamental element that will decide, from Christmas 2020, which console enters the home of millions of people first. players. Without games, consoles have no word; and the greater the number of genres, the more possibilities it will have to convince more types of public. The genre of 3D platforms is in uncertain terrain far from Nintendo, a theme that invites us to review how things are and what we can expect from a type of adventure that can look better than ever in the coming years.

Background: From Knack to Toy to Life, succession of failed attempts

That Knack, by Mark Cerny, exclusively for PS4 is already far away. It is a more important name than we believe in this matter, since, although the result was far from what we would have liked, that production showed a will: it was a declaration of intent. It was February 2013, at a press conference led by the also PS5 architect. Japan Studio, responsible for Ape Escape, Pataton and Loco Roco, were at the forefront of a new project, a new IP for PlayStation 4 that would come along with the launch of the machine.

Knack Knack

We have rarely seen a 3D platform video game look that way. Not too far away was Super Mario Galaxy 2 (2010, Wii) in time, but without HD; although at the end of that same 2013 it would arrive at the stores Super Mario 3D World (2013, Wii U) to put on the table the first more or less classic three-dimensional experience of the plumber in three dimensions and in high definition.

In Knack the combat, the level structure and the design failed, excessively linear and without taking advantage of as much as the capabilities of the DualShock 4 were promised. It did make one thing clear: Sony wanted to also reach the younger audience, that less supplied and with a limitation of options that, except for LEGO and the ever-present Sonic, few names had. Something similar happened with Xbox One, because until Super Lucky’s Tale in 2017 the situation was quite deserted in that matter.

Only Insnomniac Games, before starting work on Marvel’s Spider-Man, knew how to perfectly channel the concept of remake through Ratchet & Clank for PS4. We are not a few fans of this couple in the writing of FreeGameTips. The saga is more than 15 years old and signed with the latter one of the best; surely one of the three most memorable adventures of his entire career. A top-down remake of the original PlayStation 2 title; but not strictly following everything, it was not a 1: 1 project, but dared to refine the control, adjust the design of some scenarios and even incorporate new features with respect to the original work. The result was, at least, encouraging for future deliveries.

Ratchet & Clank Ratchet & Clank

Failed attempts to revitalize or serve as an alternative to the plumber on PS4 and Xbox One had various names and styles. To highlight, the so-called Toys to Life. Disney Infinity, Skylanders, LEGO Dimensions, or ultimately Starlink: Battle for Atlas were short lived; they were concepts that drew attention, that lent themselves to being tested, but that erred in their business model, difficult to sustain in the long term by requiring interactive real figures. NFC technology in video games started earlier, at the beginning of the decade, in the last generation. The question was, not in vain, to know if with the change of cycle that success would be maintained. None survived.

From the farewell of Skylanders to the rebirth of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro The Dragon

The decline of Toys to Life is something that we already reflected on at FreeGameTips at the end of 2017, since this has already come from afar. It was around this time that we learned that Warner Bros. in an unrequited commercial effort to bring their video games to stores accompanied by interactive figures, shelved LEGO Dimensions. It was difficult for him to come to our country, since he did it first in the United States and the United Kingdom; and when he did it was a misstep. We loved the video game, except that the investment was unaffordable for most pockets, having to add packs of up to more than 20 euros to access a few more hours of adventure.

The LEGO Dimensions case was the latest in a fateful journey. First it was Disney, which completely cut itself off from the electronic entertainment sector until further notice. They had other concerns, the movies and television, where they did not do anything wrong. With Disney Infinity canceled after three deliveries, the company argued that "the lack of growth in the interactive figures market, added to the high development costs that have created a difficult business model." For this reason, they decided to "modify our approach to the console video game".

Toys to Life Toys to Life, a fashion that has not been able to endure over the years

They were not the only ones nor would they be the last. Activision, which was making the Skylanders license stronger and stronger, died of success by chaining, in just five years, a total of six main deliveries. From that Skylanders: Spyro’s Adventure in 2011 through Giants, Swap Force, Trap Team or SuperChargers to the last one, which we also discussed with glee in FreeGameTips, Imaginators.

The North American firm announced, in a meeting with shareholders held in February 2017, that there would be no more Skylanders. Saturation, wear … The culprits did not matter, the facts mattered. They didn't give up, however, because both Vicarious Visions and Toys for Bob, who worked with this Spyro-derived license, were going to quietly start working on two real hits, a small golden age where the independent scene would also have a starring role. . 2017 was a turning point.

Skylanders Imaginators Skylanders Imaginators (2016) already warned that Crash had returned for a reason

That wonderful year 2017

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy performed very well, of remarkable height; a trilogy that compiled in a graphic remake the three original installments of PlayStation with a practically intact control – for good and for bad -, with the incentive of being able to enjoy, now, on all platforms. But that summer of 2017 would not only have the expected return of the marsupial; It was an unforgettable course for many reasons. Beyond the first great year of Nintendo Switch or the number of GOTY candidate titles that we can remember, the independent scene had a trident of aces that, we take advantage of saying, every fan of the genre must have in its collection: Snake Pass, Yooka- Laylee and A Hat in Time.

A Hat in Time A Hat in Time

First of all, at the beginning of the year the original Snake Pass, from Sumo Digital, arrived without much noise. A litmus test for the Nintendo Switch with the Unreal Engine 4: puzzles, puzzles, platforms, and skill – lots of skill that required sometimes challenging coordination. It was simply remarkable, but one of those remarkable ones that are not forgotten. His departure on the other platforms was welcome.

As was Yooka-Laylee of the British Playtonic Games, that group made up of former Rare veterans. Perhaps they were over ambitious with this tribute to Banjo & Kazooie; The tribute to Donkey Kong Country came out much better with the second two-dimensional part. With the updates that came over the months, many of the original flaws were corrected; in fact, in 2020 it has received more updates to bring it closer to how it was conceived on paper. Her story was not easy, but it was accompanied by the success and support of the fans. The project was born in Kickstarter, where it managed to sneak into the Top-10 of the most supported video games in the history of the platform: 73,200 sponsors and more than 2.7 million dollars raised. Who knows if we will have a third adventure for this particular couple.

Yooka-Laylee Yooka-Laylee

After Crash came A Hat in Time, another indie developed by Gears for Breakfast and under the Unreal Engine. It was overshadowed, surely, by Mario's odyssey that loomed from the horizon, although that did not prevent it from shining in its own light: a traditional 3D platforms, with a stage design and structure similar to what we saw in Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, added to a really attractive visual section despite the limited resources. In this house he got an outstanding. Interestingly, he was also born on Kickstarter.

This phenomenal orchestra would end with Pauline singing on top of a building in New Donk City: Super Mario Odyssey. There are no qualifiers for this title, which had the bad luck to coincide in time the same year as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild within the calendar of the great N. From there, the last two years have been marked by quite hard.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy came to do something very similar to what his cousin Crash did. If Vicarious Visions signed a flawless job in 2018 with the original Naughty Dog mascot, from Toys for Bob (who handled the port for Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy on the Nintendo Switch) did something slightly more ambitious with the Insomniac Games trilogy of purple dragon.

Spyro Reignited Trilogy (Switch) Clouds, shadows … less definition, but no aliasing or sawtooth. Very good work in these aspects.

Twenty years of difference between both trilogies regarding their original names, but what now?

Looking at the new generation: the sagas we hope to see on PS5 and Xbox Series X

Let's start with Microsoft. Phil Spencer has assured for more than a year that he wanted to bring back audiences who have failed to convince during the Xbox One cycle. One of them is, without a doubt, the Japanese. So he has made several trips and closed deals. Xbox Game Pass is feeding off names like Yakuza, Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, which will arrive in 2020 with its entire catalog of classics.

Now where is Banjo-Kazooie in this whole equation? With Rare on the British Isles aptly nurturing Sea of ​​Thieves, we wonder if Xbox Game Studios plans to devote efforts to bringing back a saga that only Masahiro Sakurai remembers. The arrival of this couple to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is the umpteenth reason to think that the IP is not finished and that, after Nuts & Bolts on Xbox 360 back in 2008, there is still some hope.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Banjo and Kazooie arrived in September 2019 at Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

In one of our last MeriPodcasts we already discussed our interest in playing again a completely new installment of the franchise on Xbox Series X, because it would be an ideal way to recover a genre that can take advantage of more than many other capabilities of the new hardware: world design, character animations, tonal variety and artistic brilliance … In addition, it would be the most effective movement by those of Spencer to respond to a possible return of Ratchet on PlayStation 5. It is a consolidated name, a brand that thousands of players want to recover and that may be the most singled out by young people for a Christmas campaign. Everything fits in our approach; We do not know if it fits so much in Microsoft's plans.

Same situation with Ratchet & Clank. We understand that the name Jak & Daxter may also be one of the first to come to our memory when we want to refer to emblems of the 3D platformer genre on PlayStation. However, it seems less likely that Naughty Dog will recover Crash than Insomniac Games will do the same with the Lombax and the robot. The reason is simple: Jak had a project canceled from the fourth part, while Ratchet has not stopped having deliveries since its launch.

Another IP that Sony has in the chamber is Astro Bot. From SIE Japan Studio, the title directed by Nicolas Doucet was established in late 2018 as one of the most sublime PS VR games to date and is, even today, an outstanding video game. Its barrier is clear: it requires a VR headset. In addition, an adapted version that dispensed with the peripheral would lose much of its magic due to the design of the title, which played with perspective and made us be part of an interactive diorama in real time. Now, that Astro Bot: Rescue Mission was designed for VR does not mean that a possible sequel can not arise without that peripheral or, if there is a new version of the helmet on PS5, that it improves even more what was seen after the first part.

Astro Bot: Rescue Mission Astro Bot: Rescue Mission

The heroes of the first 3D era, in the bedroom

Put to ask, we can ask for many names; Another thing is that they have more or less commercial logic and, above all, the time that they have been without looking into this industry. It is inevitable for us to understand that Klonoa had a superlative impact in his day when designing levels with a 2D structure that, at times, dared to be entirely 3D in his first installment for PlayStation, Klonoa: Door to Phantomile. Beyond its sequels, especially on PlayStation 2, it seems unlikely to think that Namco's original IP is back with a new installment.

The most plausible, therefore, to serve as a stress test as Activision did, may be to propose a remake of any of those installments. On Wii, back in 2009 in Europe, we had the official remake of the first installment developed by Paon. It does not invite us to be very optimistic that, at the end of 2019, what was to be his first film adaptation was canceled.

Klonoa Who does not want a new Klonoa?

Conker has also been in hiding for a decade. The Rare license, which has already appeared with Microsoft on Xbox, is one of the most demanded and another clear candidate to play that role as a benchmark for the 3D platform genre on the North American console, just like Banjo-Kazooie. But it was Conker's Bad Fur Day that started it all on Nintendo 64, a title with a significant number of fans and that, inevitably, makes it clear that the interest is still there. At this point, we do not know the plans of those of Phil Spencer around this character.

The role of Sonic the Hedgehog cannot go unnoticed. It is true that it has chained a decade with lights and shadows, with a Sonic Mania synonymous with excellence in 2D; but with a concatenation of titles or subseries that have not yet come to grips with the massive public in 3D. Sonic Boom failed in the 3DS / Wii U era, and to cite more widely accepted names, we have to go to Sonic Generations, Sonic Colors, and the controversial Sonic Unleashed, all of the past generation. His last attempt, Sonic Forces, did not reach the remarkable neither by criticism nor by users, as Metacritic currently reflects, although it is true that Forces has at all costs defenders. However, what path should SEGA follow from now on with the hedgehog? The name of the character is in great shape thanks to his film and, except for surprise, we would be very surprised not to see him back on all platforms, including the next generation, with a new bet.

When we were discussing the selection of names chosen for this article, Rayman also rang. We recognize that we want a new Rayman before that closes in style what would be the Ubisoft UbiArt Framework engine trilogy. Rayman Legends remains, for many people, a masterpiece. The French firm now thinks of other things, it has become clear. In this way, it is difficult to think if they will maintain the 2D path (as we saw in Apple Arcade in 2019) or if they will dare to return with something similar to what Rayman 3D already did. Having your name back on store shelves will be good news anyway.

Sonic Forces Sonic Forces

And we return to the initial point, that of the pairs of heroes who knew how to understand what this was all about in 128 bits. Ratchet & Clank, Banjo-Kazooie, Jak & Daxter, is there room for them in the future? The same with Sly Cooper, whose role also deserves mention between these lines. The original Sucker Punch trilogy (inFamous, Ghost of Tsushima) went from less to more on PlayStation 2, but there was a significant change of plans with PlayStation 3. To everyone's surprise, just before the starting gun for the Current generation Sony confirmed that Sanzaru Games (which already handled Secret Agent Clank and The Sly Trilogy) we learned that Sly Cooper was back on PS3 and PS Vita with that remarkable Thieves in Time. But everything was there and, seven years later, we have not heard more about the character. Sanzaru Games itself would also take over Sonic Boom: Broken Glass for Nintendo 3DS.

The genre of three-dimensional platforms can take advantage of the power of the upcoming home consoles from Sony and Microsoft, also from Nintendo Switch, with ideas that do not remain only in the courage of independent studios such as Playtonic Games or Gears for Breakfast. There is no doubt that something new from the plumber is being prepared in the Japanese offices of Nintendo; Maybe something new or, as some rumors not confirmed by Nintendo sound, new remakes of their referential deliveries in the three-dimensional era. Until that moment arrives and with both PS5 and Xbox Series X just around the corner, we hope that between all the shooting and those surprises that both large corporations anticipate there will be room for jumps, action and adventure in a casual way.

About author

Chris Watson is a gaming expert and writer. He has loved video games since childhood and has been writing about them for over 15 years. Chris has worked for major gaming magazines where he reviewed new games and wrote strategy guides. He started his own gaming website to share insider tips and in-depth commentary about his favorite games. When he's not gaming or writing, Chris enjoys travel and hiking. His passion is helping other gamers master new games.

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