Bottom-10 Worst Jumps to 3D
Now for the opposite of my prior list. Though there were many game franchises that were able to make the leap from 2D to 3D quite gracefully, other franchises struggled with it immensely. To the point that some of these games turned out to be the series’ undoing. Now, to make it on this list an important factor must be kept in mind. The game itself doesn’t necessarily have to be bad, just the transition itself and the resultant effects on the series in question…
A perfect example of a game that wasn’t necessarily bad, but didn’t quite have the leverage to lift itself into the annals of timeless classics was Wario’s platformer series’ attempt at a 3D instalment. In the handheld front, Wario usurped Mario as the de facto platformer king on the Game Boy after the immense success Wario Land (Super Mario Land 3). Afterwards, Wario took off with a GB sequel and a third game on the Game Boy Colour as well as one on the Game Boy Advance. Wario Land 4, incidentally, is one of my favourite handheld titles.
With this success, Nintendo then tried to translate Wario’s money-grabbing gameplay style to the GameCube. However, for some reason WarioWorld never quite took off. I think the problem was two-part. For one, Wario was not perhaps considered an A-lister Nintendo series and the game was treated accordingly. I remember this game having very little promotion and it became one the more overlooked titles of the system.
Another problem was a lack of ambition. Wario didn’t manage to break out of his side-scroller trappings as easily as Mario and this might have been the ultimate reason not too many people talk about this game anymore. WarioWorld was considered quaint, traditional and not as expansive as Mario’s own GC title, the somewhat controversial Super Mario Sunshine. As a result, Wario has not seen another 3D outing outside the character’s appearances in Mario’s Sports and Party games. Wario Land: The Shake Dimension (a.k.a. Wario Land: Shake It!) firmly re-established Wario as a 2D platformer series and the WarioWare games of course took Wario more in the frivolous, multiplayer, party-game direction.
Sierra’s adventure game division took a dirt nap soon after the release of Gabriel Knight 3. By then, there was no-one left at the company who had any ambitions or grand designs for new adventure games. Even Al Lowe, the creator of the loveable, perverted Leisure Suit wearing hero had left the company after 1996’s Larry 7: Love for Sail, despite innitially planning a follow-up in the form Larry 8: Lust in Space.
Sadly and ironically, when Sierra decided to resurrect the Leisure Suit Larry series with 2004’s Magna Cum Laude, they seemed to have missed all the point behind Larry. Those of us, who have actually played the games know that the Larry games aren’t really about titillating nudity or fornication, they’re about making fun of those things and doing so in a juvenile, cartoonish way with very little gratuitous content (a spoiler alert and as a disappointment to game-torrenting adolescents everywhere, all the “sex” was censored in Larrys 1-6). By Al Lowe’s own admission, Magna Cum Laude isn’t really a Larry game and neither was it an adventure game, but rather a collection of mini-games tied loosely by a plot.
At least the vanilla version of the game did keep up to Mr. Lowe’s standards and kept the nudity to a minimum, but of course the inevitable temptation on cashing in on cleavage took over and an “Uncut” version was also eventually released. Now, Magna Cum Laude wasn’t a wholly terrible game but it just wasn’t a Larry game, which just comes to show that if you’re not going to even honour the game series traditions, there’s really no need to slap the game’s name on the package. Thankfully, 2009’s Box Office Bust seemed to have finally dissuaded Sierra from trying to milk any more money out of 3D nudity and instead, the series returned to its roots (quite literally) with an HD remake of the first Larry this year.
Sometimes a failed 3D transition may be a sign that you are way-past relevant as a game franchise. Many of you will probably not even remember this, but Earthworm Jim was a bit of video-game icon back in the 1990s. Jim not only had two of the most succesful multi-platform 2D platform shooters out on the market (at a time when Nintendo and Sega were at each other’s throats no less) but his own (surprisingly good) animated TV show as well. Earthworm Jim was the very culmination of edgy, cartoon craziness.
Sadly, Earthworm Jim 3D would be the swan song game for the character (yes, there was a Game Boy Colour game too, but who honestly cared). Jim just couldn’t quite comfortably adapt the shooter action to a 3D environment. Which seems kind of ironic considering how every other game now-a-days is a shooter. The probable reason for Jim 3D’s failure was a change in developer. Whereas Shiny Entertainment who had been responsible for the 2D Jims, concentrated on their PC cult-hit MDK and their ultimately unsuccessful Enter the Matrix, 3D’s development was over-seen by VIS Entertainment, whose claim to fame were mediocre licence games and a few forgotten original one-ofs.
Also, at this point, the hype behind the character had mostly died down, so it was probably time for Jim to move on to greener pastures anyway.
I hate to come off as a nay-sayer and, trust me, I’m never against change for a game series if it can breathe some life into it. However, some games just don’t need to be in 3D. Not because it wouldn’t be a fun idea or exciting – just because it literally adds nothing to the gameplay experience. I’m not picking any specific 3D interpretation of Tetris, but all of them are just as redundant.
Tetris is a single screen game, a puzzle game. The idea is to manipulate geometric shapes within random drops and limited parameters in the hopes of making lines that clear the board. The concept is simple, but it worked so well that Tetris pretty much sold the concept of handheld gaming to the entire world.
As I demonstrated in my prior list, there have been plenty of excellent jumps to 3D made by the adventure game genre and it infuriates me that more of these games didn’t manage to make the switch in the late 90s. And though I thoroughly disagree with them, I can perhaps understand those adventure game fans who remain bitter and negative about 3D adventure games. As many awesome 3D adventures as there are, there were sadly quite a few miserable failures as well.
The first two Simon the Sorcerer games can be considered as slight fringe classics in the adventure gaming scene. Unless you played them back in the day, you’ll have probably never heard of them. But if you have, you’ll agree that they were truly an inspirational pair of parody, fantasy adventures with a distinctly mean touch (giving the far better known Discworld games a run for their money). Simon 2 in particular won favour thanks to its extremely British sense of humour and comedic approach to its characters, settings and animations. Adventure Soft fans were left in suspense at the game’s cliffhanger ending about what was to become of the selfish, foul-mouthed and heartless Simon.
Simon 3D unfortunately was a demonstration of why the independent adventure game developers were at a disadvantage in the genre’s heated competition in the mid-90s. The production of Simon 3D became incredibly delayed. Simon 2 came out in 1995 for MS-DOS, Simon 3D finally limped onto game store shelves in 2002, marking the doom of Adventure Soft as Simon was then sold onward to the German Silver Style Entertainment (who made the lesser known Simon 4 and 5). The game which was originally supposed to be a 2D adventure was hurriedly converted into a 3D game when publishers first turned the game down. The hurried, ugly 3D graphics soured the series for many. But funny enough, the game was actually still appreciated for its comedic writing. Never the less, it perhaps demonstrates that the switch to 3D was a very desperate one for some…
As Larry: Magna Cum Laude demonstrated, if you’re not going to honour the traditions of a series while making a massive technological jump, it might not be smart to blindly stamp the label of the franchise on a new game. At the same time, some might argue that Sierra’s prolific King’s Quest series, which effectively created the graphic adventure game, was well past its prime by the time the series was headed to its eighth instalment. Company founder, Roberta Williams decided to adapt new gameplay elements, dispensing with the old puzzle solving tradition of the franchise and instead tried to turn King’s Quest into a bizarre mold of action title and tactical combat.
The end result left fans bemused. Williams’ talent for games had already come under fire a few years before with the gory, supernatural and rape-laden FMV-fest known Phantasmagoria and probably off of that, Williams’ latest effort was seen as her basically taking an axe to one of Sierra’s most beloved series. At the same time, I can perhaps understand Williams’ own motives. The prior, cartoony 1994 release King’s Quest 7: The Princeless Bride had received mixed reactions and Williams was probably looking to distance herself from it.
Sadly, it doesn’t change the fact that King’s Quest 8 effectively marked the end of the franchise, with Roberta following her husband Ken into retirement just as Sierra was about to burn to the ground in the midst of a money-laundering scandal. In the end, no-one was happy about this end result.
Perhaps belonging into the same distinction as Tetris, Bomberman is just a character and game that perhaps doesn’t need intricate 3D trappings. The loveable bomb-chucking character originally created by Hudson Soft had been one of the most popular competitive-gameplay mascots out there. However, despite attempts to bring the hero to the 3rd dimension something never quite clicked.
I’m not saying there weren’t decent attempts. Bomberman Hero was a decent effort at putting Bomberman in a platformer environment, but it perhaps just didn’t capture the essence of what Bomberman was about. Despite everything, Bomberman just never managed to shake off its simple roots, even though the character remained popular for a long time.
One thing, which Bomberman definitely didn’t need was the unnecessary, gritty reboot in Bomberman: Act Zero. This if anything, showed that when making a transition to something new, it’s not smart to burn every bridge.
With so many of my childhood franchises making the leap from 2D to 3D, it of course made sense that Konami’s biggest series up to that point should also do so. Unfortunately, Castlevania met the same fate as Capcom’s Mega Man with the popularity of the 2D instalments greatly outweighing the first 3D outing and forcing the series to back-pedal to its roots. The difference to Capcom’s own key franchise, Castlevania for the N64 sucked balls.
Konami clearly struggled to find the balance of action gameplay and the expansive exploration elements they were clearly trying to incorporate with the title. The end result ended up being a game that couldn’t master any of its elements quite well. Graphics aside, it didn’t even offer the series’ trade-mark kick ass music and the crippled controls left fans frustrated.
Now of course, Castlevania 64 wasn’t the end for 3D Castlevanias. More attempts were made in the early-to-mid 2000s to though with limited success. It eventually took until 2010’s Lord of Shadows reboot of the franchise for everyone to hop on-board the 3D Castlevania train, but this game definitely left a bad taste in people’s’ mouths innitially.
One franchise, I think you will all agree, that didn’t need to make the jump to 3D was the attention grabbing Alpha Mascot wanna-be Bubsy the Bobcat. Accolade wanted to create something similar to EarthWorm Jim, a figure who would rise to great recognition outside of the major game studios. However, unlike Shiny entertainment who just stumbled on a succesful character, Accolade’s attempts were just painfully obvious.
Bubsy’s first two multiplat releases weren’t anything special but also not horrible games. However, the attention grabbing Mario & Sonic killer was just too generic and too self-advertising to ever hope to be succesful. And then, Accolade tried to beat Nintendo and Sega to the punch by releasing Bubsy’s first 3D platformer on the PlayStation.
It’s true that Bubsy came out at a time when 3D platformers were still in their infancy, but even by those standards Bubsy 3D was an absolutely shitty game. It had confused controls which made the fast-paced gameplay experience impossible to achieve, confusing level designs and camera controls. The shitty presentation was just the cherry on top of it all. Thankfully, we never had to look upon Bubsy ever again.
Might feel cheap to declare the winner to be a game that was never even finished, but delaying Sonic’s jump to 3D had destructive consequences for Sega. Therefore, it might had been the most disastrous jump to 3D in video game history. Sonic X-Treme was under development at Sega Technical Institute, since Sonic Team was too busy making NiGHTS into Dreams at the time. X-Treme had started development even before the Saturn’s announcement but the full leap came in 1994 after Saturn’s release in Japan.
You all know the story by now, two development teams developed different game engines for levels and bosses. One team’s efforts were chucked out the window by the management and that team eventually left. The second team became over-worked. After some more staff departures and the project leader contracted pneumonia, the game was cancelled and the Saturn never got its official Sonic game.
Instead Traveller’s Tales was contracted to make Sonic 3D which became the half-assed central attraction of both the Sega Saturn and the MegaDrive (which was still flourishing in Europe). Sonic Team eventually tossed their hat in with a 3D Sonic Racing game called Sonic R which received mixed reactions. None of this helped alleviate Sega’s miserable situation and in 1998 the company shifted focus to the Dreamcast. Sonic fans eventually got the 3D Sonic game they wanted, but way past late for Sega.