Where Have all the 2D Heroes Gone?


Okay, I’m gonna start this little rant off with a confession. I am a member of the Old School of Gaming. I’m 20 years old and I’ve been playing video games for as far back as I can remember, 16 years to be exact. Most kids grew up on Mother Goose and Dr. Seuss, I grew up on Donkey Kong and Pac Man. I was a video game junkie being born. Over the years, many video game systems have graced that spot next to my television. Everything from an Intellivision and an Atari to the NES, Genesis, Turbografix, Sega CD, SNES, Playstation, and Saturn. My years of video game playing has crafted me into something which is a dying breed in today’s world. That breed which I am is a 2D Junkie.

I have many fond memories of my video game youth. Memories of classic games that will never leave my heart. Memories of companies like Konami and Capcom which would turn out nothing but quality platform games. It seemed like all was right with the world back then.

But then, something began to happen. 2D suddenly wasn’t good enough for the people anymore. They didn’t want hand drawn sprites anymore. They wanted 3D polygons and first person corridor shoot-em-ups. In the course of this wave, many of the 2D heroes who I grew up with have disappeared.

It saddens me when I think that people are abandoning the roots of video games for splashy CGI rendered graphics. I mean, 2D games gave us some great memories and now we’re just abandoning them like they’ve got the plague or something. Don’t you remember your first platform game or the first one that really made you sit up and take notice? Or how about the game that got you into video games in the first place? I bet there’s a very good chance that the game that got you into video games was 2D. And yet, we’re all abandoning them. I don’t find this right.

What really gets me is how people look at a 32 bit hand drawn 2D game like Mega Man 8, Albert Odyssey, or Astal and say, “It looks like a 16 Bit Game”. May I ask what is wrong with 16 Bit? The systems aren’t that old! 16 Bit could still be alive today if the companies actually cared about them. And what makes a game 16 Bit? Is it because it doesn’t have 3D polygons or warping effects? I’ll let you in on a little secret here, fellas. Special effects don’t make a game! Gameplay does! And unfortunately, so often graphics are used to combat poor to mediocre gameplay. (Remember Rise of the Robots? Decent graphics, absolutely horrendous game. Yet it still sold enough coppies to warrant a sequel.)

Nothing hurts an old timer like me like seeing beautiful hand drawn games like Astal and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for the Playstation get shunned by my peers because they don’t contain effects that were done on a super computer or something. I don’t want effects done by CGI workstations in my games! CGI computers are used for movie special effects, but somehow, they just don’t have the same feeling for me in video games.

I was one of the few who avoided the Doom corridor boom. I just couldn’t get into the game. The storyline probably took the designers two seconds to come up with and the game’s only selling point was blood. If I want to see blood, I’ll stab myself a couple hundred times! And what’s so great about a game where you can’t even see your character? I don’t just want to see his ugly face cringing every time he gets hit at the bottom of the screen, I want to see a beautifully drawn sprite with fluid animation! But alas, Doom and it’s countless clones continue to fly off the shelves, so I guess I’m missing something.

Another thing is Capcom. Back in the NES and Genesis days, Capcom was the king of original 2D platform games. They had everything from action games, RPGs, and even Disney games for the kids. (Although I found myself enjoying the Disney games also.) But then came the blessing/curse of Street Fighter II. When that game became a run-away hit, Capcom just kind of lost sight of what made their company great. They kept the 2D part in tact, I’m happy about that, but what they forgot was how to make original games, not just countless upgrades. (Street Fighter II Turbo, Street Fighter II Turbo Hyper, Street Fighter II Super Duper Pooper Scooper Edition!) I love Street Fighter, but Capcom has just bombarded us with so many upgrades that’s it’s gotten ridiculous. And the only Capcom series from the old days that’s managed to survive is Mega Man.

I think I’ve finally found out what killed the 2D platform. A lack of originality. Think about it, every 2D platform series that’s lucky enough to be alive today has the same story in every sequel. In Mega Man, Dr. Wily always escapes from prison and events eight new robots to take over the world. How many times has Dr. Wily broken out of his cell now? You’d think by now Mega Man would just kill him or they’d beef up security in Dr. Wily’s cell or something. But then, they couldn’t have Mega Man 9 if they did that, now could they? And how about Super Mario Brothers? You’d think the Princess would start carrying protection now that she’s been kidnapped by Bowser too many times to count! Yet, she still manages to get kidnapped time and time again. And what about Sonic? That game’s had the same story since Day 1. How many times is Dr. Robotnik gonna try to turn the animals in the forest into his robot slaves?

You see, folks, a lack of originality is why the 2D platform is a dying breed. They just can’t come up with a new story. They keep the same one except maybe they add a few new characters or power ups to make it seem new. Don’t get me wrong, I love 2D platforms with all my heart, but this same old, same old thing is really starting to get to me. In order for every genre to survive, it needs originality. And I’m sorry, but after seven sequels, Mega Man in it’s current form is getting kind of stale.

So you see, folks, 2D platforms really need to survive. They’re apart of our video game heritage! Everybody’s played and loved at least one in their life. Whether it’s Super Mario Brothers, Castlevania, Ninja Gaidan, or even Mega Man. We must not forget the games that made us the video game fans we are today. Although I tend to play RPGs more often these days, I will often break out my old systems and play some classic 2D games like Strider, Bonk’s Adventure, and many others.

I know, I’m just an old timer who’s grasping onto the past. But still, I know that 2D games can survive in today’s video game world of Doom and Virtua Fighter. All they need is a game that can open people’s eyes once again to the genre. I thought for sure that Astal would be that game, but unfortunately, that game came and went with hardly a whisper. It’s sad, really. People are forgetting their roots when it comes to video games. The newer games are good, but many of them will never be classics like many of the 2D platforms of old. Think about it, if it weren’t for 2D platforms, would we even have Mario 64? We wouldn’t have hardly any 3D games because a lot of them are upgrades of old 2D platform games! I guess the more things change, the more they stay t

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