The first hurdle when it comes to tackling Stian’s challenges is trying to summarize his rules in a catchy title. A list about games that didn’t handle the transition between 2D & 3D or vice-versa gracefully. This is not going to be SEO-friendly at all.
So, the criteria for this list is as follows: it concerns any entry in a video game franchise that suddenly changed the perspective from which the game was usually played. Stian originally intended this to refer to games that went from 2D to 3D in the late 90’s & early 2000’s, but I think a case can be made for series that decided to break the mold with a new style of game or handheld tie-ins for popular 3D franchises.
Any complaints about the arbitrariness of these rules are to be directed to corruptsavefile.com.
Yea, yea, we all know how this went. Bubsy 3D, famously one of the most disastrous moves to 3D, and that came on top of a franchise that already wasn’t the most prestigious.
I like the old Bubsy games a fair bit, but even I, contrarian that I am, do not have any fondness for Bubsy 3D. The game was rushed through development by an inexperienced team not given the resources and support to salvage the situation. It’s a clunky game lacking in gameplay, of which large chunks of level are devoid of texturing and detail. It’s an admirable effort. Just a shame people had to pay real money to express that admiration.
Bubsy was obviously going to be on this list, so I prefer we get him out of the way first.
To skip to an example of a typically 3D game regressing back to a 2D tie-in, we got Slashy Souls. A mobile game that took the amazing worlds of the Souls series and their formidable gameplay, and figured they’d be a great fit for a bare-bones runner game.
The very least amount of effort possible was expended to make this tie-in work. Animations are stiff and awkward, with familiar monsters turned into ugly 2D sprites to slaughter without strategy. The gameplay grows stale within mere minutes and there is nothing in there to reward those who push on regardless. A real blemish on one of the most influential gaming series of recent years.
The Warhammer universe has been a popular license to adapt to games, going back as far as 1992 with Space Crusade. Strategy games were an ideal fit for a franchise that found its roots in boardgames and miniature wargaming, but EA felt different about this.
Their take on the Space Hulk games saw players take control of a unit of terminators navigating the tight corridors of a derelict space ship. Players can move them around by map, but the way the game is meant to be played is in first person mode. A first person mode in a tiny, minuscule screen, because the game still has to display a bunch of other monitors in which you see the perspective of all the other marines you can control.
Perhaps this style of tactical FPS would be possible on the super-high resolution screen of today, or for gamers with expensive multi-screen setups. For an Amiga, this was probably a bit overambitious
Earthworm Jim 3D
The story of Earthworm Jim 3D is the kind of tale that I suspect Stian was looking for: a perfect example of a beloved 2D franchise being ruined beyond repair the moment it dipped its toes in the stormy waters of 3D gaming.
Jim was once a rising star among mascot characters with successful console and handheld games, and even a cartoon series. Yet, when the time came to bring the worm to 3D, the project was given to the then-inexperienced VIS Entertainment. To nobody’s surprise, the studio’s second-ever game and first venture into console development did not live up to the expectations fans had for this series.
Earthworm Jim 3D has the familiar trifecta of early 3D platformer problems: an unruly camera, poor controls, and mediocre gameplay design. Worst of all, it’s just kinda boring. So boring, in fact, that it instantly killed this once-promising franchise. We wouldn’t see another Earthworm Jim game until the re-releases a decade later.
Blues Brothers 2000
Now I know that not a great many people would call Blues Brothers on the NES a classic game, but it’s certainly one that I enjoyed a fair bit and one I presume to be near & dear to Stian, who challenged me to this list in the first place. The giant Blues Brothers poster in his family living room kinda tipped me off.
It wouldn’t be unfair to argue that the 1997 follow-up movie Blues Brothers 2000 wasn’t as well-received as the original, which is a fate that also befell its Nintendo 64-exclusive video game adaptation. Ugly visuals, sloppy controls, Blues Brothers 2000 has it all, but it’s also a criminally short and uninteresting game on top of that.
Fortunately, Titus Interactive was considerate enough to bless this game with some of the most hideous box art ever to grace store shelves. I can’t imagine any kid looking at this game sitting besides the likes of Super Mario 64 and Banjo & Kazooie, and failing to pick out the superior titles.
Prinny: Can I Really Be the Hero?
The Disgaea games are tactical RPGs about managing your army to win battles in isometric battle maps. The series is full of comedy and strange humor, which eventually culminated in a spin-off series of 2D platformers.
Starring the series’ mascot characters, the frequently-abused Prinny slaves, players navigate levels and fight enemies. However, Prinnies aren’t known for their mobility and these games are certainly true to that. These are some of the most rigid and frustrating platformers of recent years, filled with cheap traps and levels designed to set you back far if you have the audacity of messing up.
The game’s gimmick is that the Prinnies are expendable and you have 1000 of their lives to throw away in a bid to reach the end. A steep challenge to be sure and one that I don’t ever want to try my hand at again.
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories
The original Kingdom Hearts is near and dear to me. I replayed that game so often and was really looking forward to its continuation. This ended up being delayed for a while and, when I finally got the chance to play another Kingdom Hearts game… it was Chain of Memories.
After the big 3D adventure that Sora and his friends concluded with an epic final battle, Chain of Memories was an isometric, card-based action game with 2.5D battle sequences. I went into it with an open-mind, but Chain of Memories is so stiff and shuffling cards around to kind-of recreate the exciting combat of Kingdom Hearts is clumsy.
The game also manages to be both a retread of the first game with recycled story & characters, while also featuring too many new developments to be safely skipped by anybody looking to get into the rest of the mainline games.
Frogger: The Great Quest
I grew up playing the reimagined Frogger from 1997 and its sequel Swampy’s Revenge on my first PC and absolutely loved those games. These were examples of classic games sticking with their original formula and refining it for the modern age, instead of taking the gamble with a full 3D adventure. Then came Frogger: The Great Quest.
Now, Bubsy 3D is an unfinished game, but The Great Quest is the only title on today’s list that honestly seems to struggle to exist in 3 dimensions. It’s an unstable, ugly game where control problems and bugs run rampant. This is some of the very worst that early 3D games had to offer, which is just baffling for 2001. With its uncontrollable camera, frequent freeze-ups, and wonky collision detection, The Great Quest feels like it should be an early PS1 title at best.
And what did they do with the presentation? Every character is ugly, every cutscene weird; it feels more like a bad Conker’s Bad Fur Day than a kid-friendly adventure about a cartoon frog. A frog who, himself, has now been turned into this ugly, unlikable stock protagonist with a humanoid design. Barely half an hour into the game and I already wanted to throw this frog into oncoming traffic.
The Bureau: XCOM Declassified
Classic X-COM fans were truly feeling the hype when 2K announced its intention to revive the classic strategy series, until it became clear this remake would take the form of a third-person shooter rather than a strategy game. XCOM: Enemy Unknown swooped in to smooth things over and left fans old and new happy enough that they were willing to overlook that The Bureau was still released as well.
Let’s not beat around the bush here, The Bureau is a boring shooter brought to us in a console generation already loaded to the brim with B-tier shooters like it. It’s stylistically interesting and not the worst game graphically, but mechanically it doesn’t do anything of particular interest to make it feel like a worthy part of the franchise. Add in an uninteresting story with an unlikable protagonist and you got a spin-off nobody asked for.
This is heresy and I will not stand for it.
I hope you all enjoyed this twist on the familiar 2D-to-3D discussion, it was quite a challenge to compile. As for my challenge to Stian, I would like to see a countdown of his favorite songs in videogames. To be precise, these must be songs made specifically for the game itself, so no licensed tracks, and the songs must feature lyrics, so the typical background music does not count either. I am curious to see what he’ll come up with.