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What today’s 3D Platformers can take from the past

A look at what made 3D platformers such a genre staple of the past, and what could keep it relevant today.

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For console gamers in the mid-90’s, no genre shown brighter than the 3D platformer. Nintendo relied on Super Mario 64 to sell the Nintendo 64, much like they are relying on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild to push the Switch now, and their sterling second-party studio, Rare, doubled-down on the genre through Banjo-Kazooie, Banjo-Tooie, Donkey Kong 64, and Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Meanwhile, PlayStation brought Crash Bandicoot, Spyro the Dragon, Gex, and Ape Escape to the table. The well dried up as quickly as the flood began, however, and platformers were jettisoned as a relic of the past by the end of the following console generation.

With the recent launch of Yooka-Laylee, the acclaimed reboot of Ratchet and Clank last year, the Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy releasing this summer, and Super Mario Odyssey slated for this fall, the stage might be set for a revival of the genre. With that in mind, here are some strengths of old 3D platformers that their contemporary counterparts will hopefully lean into, rather than the collect-a-thons and annual sequels that weighed the genre down.

Smart, Quirky Characters

While modern games can convey character through nuanced voice acting and subtle animation, early 3D platformers often relied on quirky dialogue and eccentricity. Taking a page from Pixar’s book, the characters in Rare’s games managed a duality of world-building cartoonishness with world-bending real-life references and fourth-wall-breaking dialogue. The Great Mighty Poo from Conker’s Bad Fur Day is a memorable boss fight not only because the player gets to fight a pile of poo by tossing toilet paper, but because he is an English-accented, operatic, self-aware pile of poo that revels in his “beautiful clagginess.” When done right, this type of trademark charisma can appeal to children and adults alike in a manner few contemporary games attempt. After the comparatively ham-fisted writing in the latest Ratchet and Clank, it would be nice to see a return to form for 3D platformers’ unique blend of charm, wit, and warmth.

Emphasis on Movement

Movement lies at the heart of 3D platforming, and just as games like Dark Souls and Nioh have put their own twists on the action genre, it might be time to reinvigorate the 3D platformer with bold movesets, pacing, and rhythm. Since decades have passed since the genre’s heyday, developers might be able to take advantage of newer technology to tinker with conventional moves and abilities of the past. We have seen some experimentation in the Super Mario Galaxy games, such as the spin drill that allows Mario to drill into the interior of planets to allow for inventive gameplay scenarios likely impossible on the N64, yet some of the most interesting experiments in movement are relegated to the past, such as the ball-bouncing movement mechanics of Glover, and the tongue-based traversal of Chameleon Twist, both inventive oddball games of the late 90’s that attempted to diversify and deepen standard platforming. Hopefully, upcoming platformers can break new ground by melding creativity with modern technological affordances. The anticipation surrounding the recent release of Snake Pass is a sign that gamers are intrigued by new forms of movement.

Playground Level Design

While action games might emphasize deep combat and enemy variety, platforming is as much about traversing the environment as it is disposing of baddies. Since Super Mario Sunshine, there have been few platformers that emphasize exploring a limited space to accomplish a wide array of goals. While some might argue that this form of level design was merely a philosophy meant to circumvent limited technological capabilities, this playground-like level design highlights the platforming aspects of 3D platformers, as it encourages the player to move through the same space in numerous ways. It also gives the game some of its warmth and charm by making players grow intimately familiar with their small but dense play space. Perhaps this is why “Lethal Lava Land” and “Whomp’s Fortress” in Super Mario 64 evoke a sense of place that the briefly-visited planetoids of Super Mario Galaxy can’t rival. In an era when most single-player campaigns either rush us through linear spaces or give us access to incomprehensibly vast spaces, few games encourage us to grow meaningfully intimate with our surroundings. Perhaps the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey, which promises to delve back into Mario’s 3D roots later this year, can make a case for the depth and intimacy this form of level design can offer.

Color

Whereas many modern games embrace the mute and the drab to suit their “realistic” or “adult” aesthetics, platformers of the past proudly used every crayon in the box. This bright and vivid visual approach complemented the spiraling, vertical, playground-like level design in its fanciful effusiveness, crafting an enveloping depiction of a make-believe world. Psychonauts, for example, is comprised of levels that translate various psychological states and complexes into levels, each with an accompanying art style that visually emulates a psychology. More recently, first-person platformer Mirror’s Edge uses bright colors against greys and whites to help the player identify where to go next without interrupting the flow of the parkour gameplay. While other genres might be content basking in shades of brown, modern platformers ought to draw from their colorful roots in their aesthetic as well as their design.

Smart Collectables

The Sisyphusian collect-a-thon loops of a game like Donkey Kong 64 can dramatically detract from the player’s experience, but collectibles are a hallmark of 3D platformers for a reason. At their best, collectibles offer a reason for the player to revisit intricately-designed spaces to discover their nooks and crannies. This encourages the development of the one-of-a-kind intimacy that makes 3D platformers feel so special to begin with. Granted, the genre emphasized collectibles too heavily by the end of its heyday, but they can be surprisingly rewarding when implemented properly. Though not a platformer, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild scatters 900 Korok seeds across its world, not to encourage collecting them all, but as a way to encourage player exploration and sprinkle traversal with small puzzles and rewards. Meanwhile, the Ratchet and Clank games offer a map that displays the portions of the map the player has already explored, allowing him to make informed decisions about where to explore instead of asking players to blindly search an entire world for the hundredth thingamajig. By combining these newer empowering mechanics with a tempered use of collectibles, modern 3D platformers could encourage the player to intimately familiarize themselves with levels, while also avoiding the tedium and mindlessness of collect-a-thons.

Escapism

Though non-players often interpret the escapism video games offer as a negative, players know that sense of escape is one of the qualities that makes the medium so remarkable. As reprieves from reality, 3D platformers – in their colorful, otherworldly, comical, friendly fancy – offer the chance to escape to worlds where you are a culturally savvy gecko on the search for TV remotes, or a fruit-loving bandicoot visiting tropical locales. Call of Duty certainly has its place, but 3D platformers are like virtual Disneylands that offer a whimsical parallel universe in a world where we are endlessly bombarded with the gravitas of events that we have no control over. giving players the chance to have lighthearted (but empowering) fun in a fantastic world where their choices do make a difference. In this way, 3D platformers are the antithesis of CNN, and an important virtual refuge for those of us who sometimes need a break from being reminded how horrendous the real world can be. While some indie games, such as Owlboy and Stardew Valley, evoke a similar sense of sanctuary, larger developers might want to consider investing in the cozy and carefree.

Reinvigoration through Reinvention

These are just a handful of old-school platformer trademarks that modern platformers would benefit from studying. Ratchet and Clank, for example, learned from its past, emphasized its strengths, and resulted in one of the best exclusives on PS4. Despite many aspects of old platformers being outdated by today’s standards, there are certainly aspects special enough to leave fans anticipating the genre’s return decades later.

Kyle is an avid gamer who wrote about video games in academia for ten years before deciding it would be more fun to have an audience. When he's not playing video games, he's probably trying to think of what else to write in his bio so it seems like he isn't always playing video games.

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Watch the Trailer for ‘The Mandalorian’ the First Live-Action ‘Star Wars’ Series

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Thanks to the arrival of the D23 Expo, Disney has revealed the first trailer for its long-awaited Star Wars original series, The Mandalorian.

Created by Jon Favreau (Iron Man), the series is set after the events of Return of the Jedi and follows Pedro Pascal as a mysterious, gun-slinging Mandalorian bounty hunter who navigates the seedier side of the Star Wars universe.

Along with Pedro Pascal, The Mandalorian stars Gina Carano, Nick Nolte, Giancarlo Esposito, Emily Swallow, Carl Weathers, Omid Abtahi, Werner Herzog, and Taika Waititi. The first season of episodes will be directed by filmmakers like Dave Filoni, Taika Waititi, Bryce Dallas Howard, Rick Famuyiwa, and Deborah Chow.

the mandalorian trailer

Here’s the official description of The Mandalorian:

After the stories of Jango and Boba Fett, another warrior emerges in the Star Wars universe. The Mandalorian is set after the fall of the Empire and before the emergence of the First Order. We follow the travails of a lone gunfighter in the outer reaches of the galaxy far from the authority of the New Republic.

The Mandalorian begins streaming on Disney+ on November 12, 2019.

Check out The Mandalorian trailer below.

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Soundtrack Gets a Vinyl Release

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While we don’t publish music news or music reviews here at Goomba Stomp, we are huge fans of vinyl and since we cover film, we figured this announcement would interest some of our readers.

Back in 2017, Jordan Peele’s Get Out topped our list of the best films of 2017 and while the year isn’t yet over, there’s a good chance his follow-up Us, will land somewhere on our best of the year list as well. There are many reasons why we love Peele’s ambitious sophomore film including for the suspense, cinematography, performances, and direction, but one thing that doesn’t get enough praise is the soundtrack by Michael Abels. And if you like us, love the original score, you’re going to love this bit of news.

After giving his Get Out soundtrack a vinyl release last year, Jordan Peele is now doing the same for the soundtrack to Us.

WaxWork Records announced the news earlier today and if you’re planning on buying a copy, you don’t have to wait since it is now available to purchase through the label’s website.

The soundtrack, which received a digital release earlier this year, features composer Michael Abels’ score, in addition to songs from Janelle Monáe, Minnie Ripperton and the “Tethered Mix” of Luniz’s “I Got 5 on It” that appeared in the film’s first trailer. The album artwork was created by illustrator Edward Kinsella and features an interactive die-cut mirror board back cover, a heavyweight art print and an exclusive essay from UCLA Professor, scholar, and activist Shana L. Redmond Ph.D.

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Trailer for the Twisted Dark Comedy thriller ‘Villains’

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Alter has released the first poster and the official trailer for Villains, the upcoming dark comedy thriller which stars Bill Skarsgård (IT) and Maika Monroe (It Follows) as a couple who rob a gas station and scores enough cash to start a new life in Florida. Unfortunately for them, their getaway plans turn upside down and the young couple end up stumbling on much more than they bargained for.

Villains hits theaters on September 20th and was written and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. In addition to Skarsgard and Monroe, the movie also stars Jeffrey Donovan and Kyra Sedgwick. It’s co-produced by Bron Studios, Star Thrower Entertainment, Creative Wealth Media Finance, and The Realm Films. You can watch the trailer for Villains below.

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Beanie Babies: The Collectables with Heart

Toys We Love Spotlight

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For our Toys We Love Spotlight, I’m looking at one of my personal favourites: Beanie Babies. I had collected so many of these growing up, and households worldwide in the 90s and early 2000s were sure to have at least one Beanie Baby in their possession (was it even the 90s if they didn’t?). These plushie companions were cute, cuddly, and collectable, so it’s not a surprise that the Beanie Babies craze swept the globe, forcing parents and toy collectors everywhere to dig into their wallets.


Beanie Babies had a few aspects to them that made them stand out from your average plushie. Firstly, they did not have as much stuffing as most soft toys. Whilst some thought that this made them look cheap, it also made them light, posable, and gave them a realistic feel and look. The bear Beanie Babies were particularly good to pose, and this set them apart from run-of-the-mill teddy bears. Another element that made Beanie Babies more unique was their special tag. Each toy had a tag attached which had the toy’s name, date of birth, and a quotation etched inside. The former was something that could have been a risky choice, as although it wasn’t completely taking away the child’s choice of name — there was nothing stopping them from just calling their Beanie whatever they wanted — a pre-selected name can be difficult to sell, as kids can often take great pride and pleasure in naming their toys.

It was a great success, however, and worked as a nice finishing touch for the Beanie Babies, adding a dash of personality and flair (something much needed in the often critically over-saturated soft toy market), as well as making each Beanie Baby feel like their own creature with their own little stories. Adding to that was the wide variety of animals that were available, such as Tiny the Chihuahua, Pegasus the Unicorn or Swampy the Alligator. This means that the desires of each individual child or enthusiastic collector could be catered to (I myself favoured the dogs and bears).

The puppies were my Beanie Baby of choice. They were all such good boys and girls.

The Beanie Babies also had their own way of tackling difficult issues in society, showing them to kids through the guise of a soft toy. I’ll give you an example through my own experience: I had a Beanie Baby that (as odd as it may sound) gave me more of an understanding of the horrors of September 11th. Weird, right? Allow me to explain. I was only just nine years old on that now-historical day when the twin towers in New York were attacked and so many innocent people lost their lives. I had come home from school (it was afternoon time here in the UK when it happened), and I remember my mum watching it on television in complete shock. She had watched the whole thing whilst I’d been at school.

I didn’t really understand what was happening to be honest. Even when I was watching the repeats of the plane crashing into the side of the tower, I was somewhat oblivious the gravity of the situation (though as a nine year old child, I suppose I could be forgiven for that). The news continued to report the tragedy for a long time, and my school held assemblies to discuss the matter. I knew people had died, and that made me very sad, but I remember thinking that people died all the time, so why was this one incident reported on so much? About a month or so after, TY released three Beanie Babies as a tribute to those lost during 9/11. One of these was a Dalmatian Beanie Baby called Rescue, and I wanted him the moment I saw him, not really knowing the true nature of his purpose. My mum obliged happily, knowing what he represented. I remember taking my little Dalmatian with the red collar and American flag on his leg home and reading his tag. It read:

To honor our heroes
who lost their lives in the
national catastrophe that
took place on September 11, 2001.
We mourn for them and express our
deepest sympathy to their families.
God Bless America

Rescue the Dalmatian was joined by America the Bear and Courage the German Shepherd. The Beanies were a set of three released to honor those who perished in the tragedy of 9/11.

I found Rescue in my room recently, and the memories flooded back to me upon reading it again. I remember looking into all the acts of heroism and bravery after reading Rescue’s tag, and that’s when the situation really hit home to me. I looked into the stories of firefighters and first responders and those who had died, as well as all the search-and-rescue dogs attempting to save people among the chaos. As a child, it can be hard to see past your immediate opinion and truly consider the sheer weight of a situation, but with Rescue’s help, I was able to see just how this event was indeed very different to anything I had ever seen before, and how serious it was. It was the first time I felt like I was thinking like a grown up. I looked at the world differently from then on — obviously as I got older, but also from my ability to think harder and search deeper. Honestly, I don’t know if I would have even bothered if it wasn’t for Rescue reminding me of exactly how much was lost on that day.

Rescue, perhaps the goodest and bravest boy of them all.

Beanie babies will forever be ingrained in culture. They are still bought, sold and collected even now and will remain a timeless staple of most of our childhoods. They certainly are for me. Especially you Rescue, the bravest firefighting Dalmatian the world has ever known.

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‘Shenmue III’ Gamescom Trailer Details a Day in the Life of Ryo

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The original Shenmue games pioneered the open world genre, in part through their inclusion of many different minigames and side activities. The Kickstarter-funded Shenmue III looks to continue that legacy, as developer Ys Net and publisher Deep Silver have debuted a new trailer at Gamescom 2019 entitled “A Day in Shenmue.”

The developers provided the following description of the trailer via their latest Kickstarter update: “Exploring the town, playing minigames and battling! We hope it feels just how a Shenmue day should!” Sure enough, the footage showcases the series protagonist Ryo participating in a number of minigames, such as a boxing game and a pachinko machine. The end of the trailer also includes a good look at the series’ signature kung fu combat.

Beyond the new trailer, the Kickstarter update also noted that Yu Suzuki, the famed creator of Shenmue, will be present at Gamescom for autograph signings.

After numerous delays, Shenmue III will finally launch on November 19, 2019 for PS4 and PC via the Epic Games Store.

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Freelance Film Writers

Goomba Stomp is the joint effort of a team of like-minded writers from across the globe. We provide smart readers with sharp, entertaining writing on a wide range of topics in pop culture, offering an escape from the usual hype and gossip. We are currently looking for Film, TV, Anime and Comic writers.

Contact us: Editor@GoombaStomp.com

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