Death, Revival, Re-Death of Big Budget Platforming
It has never been a better time for fans of big-budget platforming. The coming of Banjo-Kazooie’s spiritual successor, Yooka-Laylee is being released in October of 2016. There are rumors about and an interest in a new Crash Bandicoot game on the horizon. Ratchet & Clank has released another game in their beloved series. Last (but certainly not least), interest was once again shown in the critically acclaimed platformer Psychonauts 2. For fans of big-budget platforming, it is a good time to be alive… at least for the next few years.
While it is true that the love for major platforming games is a vast an unending one… the results of major platforming titles are somewhat mixed.
Psychonauts is our greatest example here, with the game initially only selling about 400,000 copies initially . Banjo-Tooie, a release back in 2000, ended with the famous words “You just wait until Banjo-Theeie…” But we didn’t end up getting a sequel until Nuts & Bolts, which wasn’t the game we grew up with. The last Crash Bandicoot game was in 2010 in the form of a Mobile Kart racing game, not a platformer. Ratchet & Clank is a bit more consistent with the release space between games being three years. Into the Nexus was Ratchet & Clanks 2013 release with the recent one simply being titled Ratchet & Clank.
Nintendo has the market cornered for classic platforming, as they continue to release a new Mario platformer once every few years. The formula for this game hasn’t changed in the past few years, yet they still manage to make pretty impressive numbers. Keep in mind that these numbers also come with hardware bundles that have a copy that comes with the game. You can also see that games like Super Mario Galaxy and Sunshine aren’t making the same sales numbers, but still manage to get an impressive record. Despite that information, we have yet to see an innovative 3D platformer come out of Nintendo of this style for six years.
RareWare, one of the greatest companies of the 90s, is stuck in “Microsoft nightmare”, stuck on developing games for the Kinect. The one platforming game that had an attempted re-release was Conker: Live & Reloaded, which received a fairly positive response. This released was back in 2006, ten years ago. The closest fans of this game got to receiving a platformer came through in the Project Spark DLC, something that was cancelled after the game went completely free. The closest we see to a modern RareWare release is a rehash of old content through Rare Replay.
However, Conker did make a recent appearance on the Microsoft Hololens in the form of something that can only be described as nightmare fuel. Young Conker is Microsoft’s botched attempt to remind its fans that they are still thinking about the old game. This abomination comes to us on the Microsoft Hololens Development Kit and is not really an official Conker game.
This next image will require eye bleach.
Sony does its best to keep the idea of Big Budget Platforming alive through the Ratchet and Clank series and Little Big Planet, but both of these game series see somewhat limited releases. Third party publishers associated with Sony are also guilty of this. Playstation fans have their own list of games they have been looking at new releases for. The big one that people are waiting for is Crash Bandicoot, which (as stated earlier) is still stuck in a “possibly in the future” category. Jak and Daxter was also a very well loved title that was just forgotten for no reason.
What do we have to learn from this?
This temporary resurgence of platformers comes with those who love big budget platforming having to deal with another fall… One that will inevitably will come again. While there are those who want this trend to stay forever, it is important to note that fads come and go. When Psychonauts 2 hits the release date the “hype train” will hit “maximum overdrive” for the first week. After this initial rise in popularity (provided that people enjoy the game), it will die down and fade into the sunset as other games do. Psychonauts, Super Mario Galaxy, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot… They are all a piece of nostalgia and gaming history. All series have to die down eventually, and some meet their end sooner than some fans would have liked. Too much demand creates a situation like Banjo-Kazooie Nuts & Bolts. Near the beginning of the game, L.O.G (The Lord of Games) makes a statement that is something of a slap in the face of fans to old collect-a-thon games.
Every reference to their previous game states that the old game style is outdated, tedious, and pointless. This introduction cutscene has convinced many of the classic Banjo-Kazooie fans that there will never be another game featuring the bear and bird duo as long as Microsoft is at the helm. The reality is that there isn’t much need for big budget platformers in the modern gaming landscape, just games that are inspired by the old and create new. Sonic, one of the great platformers of the Genesis era can never seem to keep their fans happy. Although, this might be due to a combination of a confused staff and some terrible releases.
If you want some amazing platformers that don’t need a budget, check out the indie marketplace. Indie is where the innovation of games like Super Mario Galaxy and Psychonauts can find a home. Sometimes games like these reach critical acclaim: such as Fez, Braid, or Limbo.
The lesson is this:
Live in nostalgia for the moment, but create new opportunities for nostalgia by finding it in the modern landscape.