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Mega Man, Contra, Castlevania, Ghosts'n'Goblins - Platformers? [roundtable]
 
Ratchet & Clank, Jak 2 & 3, Sly 2 & 3 - Platformers?

Metroid?

Let's hash it out. In my eyes, a platformer is a game that is DEFINED by its platforming. A game in which the primary mechanic (or at least one of them) is platforming, moving and jumping through an environment built for that purpose. Where that platforming is part of the game's challenge.

When I first heard games like Contra referred to as 'platformers', I was actually shocked. Because you were able to jump in almost every 2D game. To me, those were 'Action Games', because you could also shoot stuff. However, I can see a bit of a gray area there, since some of the platforming is kind of challenging. I still posit that the primary action in the game is 'shooting', though.

Metroid has a ton of platforming, but that game was about exploration, to me. And 'platformers' seldom are.

But maybe my criteria are too limited. What do you guys think?

By the way, the genre label is a totally meaningless distinction, but I thought it would be fun to argue about. It does bug me when people don't acknowledge Super Mario Sunshine as the best 'platformer' last gen, though, because, honestly, what game had better 'platforming'? I love Ratchet and Clank, but I don't remember it exercising my platforming muscles at all. 3D games are a bit different, I guess, because there aren't many pure 'platformers' these days. Even games like Mario include a bit of a puzzle element. But clambering around custom environments is still the star of the show.

Now that I said all of that, I do think of Crackdown as a platformer, because that is where the fun of the game was, to me. It may have been a co-lead mechanic, but it was a well-done, challenging one.

Mirror's Edge and Prince of Persia should have only focused on the platforming, since combat dragged them down. Assassin's Creed has a lot of platforming, but it feels sloppy to me.

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Posted: 02/24/11, 18:40:23
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I think a more important question to me is... why do human beings feel the need to classify everything into tight little packages? I don't think stuff is that simple. And I also think that it creates an issue where someone comes up with something original and some publisher turns it down because it's not easily classifiable, which bothers me. Why are we so bad at appreciating things we can't define?

I feel this way about music too. It's weird getting into the electronic scene and seeing all of these various genre definitions. I have no idea where my stuff fits in. For my music I just make up a bunch of my own goofy genres. And then I add "core" to the end because that somehow makes it a real genre or something.

Anyway, if I had to decide here, I'd say that maybe Contra isn't about platforming at its core (except for the stages where it is) but Mega Man is just as much about the platforming as the shooting, I think. Castlevania is probably in between Mega Man and Contra. Ratchet fits in somewhere around there. Ghosts N' Goblins as well, although Maximo had significant platforming. Metroid barely has any real platforming.

I didn't really answer the question though, did I? Oh well.
Posted: 02/24/11, 19:03:58  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 19:04:41
I can't speak for the other games that you mentioned (aside from Sunshine, because it's the only "newer" game I have played and I thoroughly enjoyed it), but I have never considered Metroid a platformer. I've always though of it as an adventure game with some platforming elements...sort of a Mario and Legend of Zelda hybrid (or what Zelda II should have been).

I always considered the Mega Man games as action games, though they have some platforming going on. Air Man's stage in Mega Man 2 says hi, as does Heat Man's and Bubble Man's. Contra was more of an action/SHMUP to me as well, though some levels did require some platforming skill.

Sadly, that genre is becoming a rare breed these days. DKCR and Kirby's Epic Yarn are platformers, I guess...maybe?
Posted: 02/24/11, 19:08:09  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 19:08:54
I would definitely put DKCR and NSMB in the category. Haven't played much of Kirby yet.

@Zero
Hey, I already put in a disclaimer! I don't care about classification, either. But I thought it might be fun to try to codify it, for no particular reason. It's something that gamers often disagree on, like the meaning of 'hardcore'.

Anyway, something even more pointless to me is trying to decide whether something is 'art'. What would be the effect of that ruling?
Posted: 02/24/11, 19:12:44
Zero said:
I think a more important question to me is... why do human beings feel the need to classify everything into tight little packages? I don't think stuff is that simple. And I also think that it creates an issue where someone comes up with something original and some publisher turns it down because it's not easily classifiable, which bothers me. Why are we so bad at appreciating things we can't define?
I was just thinking about this yesterday. The Smithsonian is having a vote on which video games should be featured in the museum, across a variety of different systems and eras. Good idea, except that they have a very strange classification system: they pick three games per "genre" for each system: Adventure, Action, Target, and Strategy. The problem with this is that some really lame games end up being nominated on systems that don't have a great representation of those preset genres. The SNES has so many good RPGs, yet due to the preset categorization, the only 3 that got put in Adventure were Chrono Trigger, LttP and EarthBound. No FF3! (and I'd argue that LttP and CT shouldn't be in the same category anyway)

DKCR, Kirby, and NSMBW are definitely all platformers.
Posted: 02/24/11, 19:13:55  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 19:14:31
anandxxx said:
Anyway, something even more pointless to me is trying to decide whether something is 'art'. What would be the effect of that ruling?

Well if you get your stuff codified as art, you can sell feces smeared on canvas to art museums for thousands of dollars. That seems like one worthwhile effect (to the artist, anyway.)
Posted: 02/24/11, 19:14:42
You're thinking of 'art' as stuff you put in a museum, right? Mostly things on canvas? I kind of do the same, but I mean in reference to video games.

To me, the idea that a game is more or less worth playing solely because of that label is disgusting. On the other hand, there are 'art games' which have no intrinsic gameplay value. Message games. To be honest, I don't even consider those to be games. More just interactive experiences.

Let's define 'game'!
Posted: 02/24/11, 19:39:08
Too many people think of the phrase "art" as a "positive quality." As in, "Oh, that's so good it reaches the level of art," which makes no sense. Saying games are art isn't a way of elevating the medium, it's a simple fact. Plenty of games are terrible piles of yuck, but they're still an art form (just bad art).

It's just a fact, like "the kiwi is a bird." You don't have people saying, "Oh, but kiwis aren't beautiful enough to be in the same category as a trumpeter swan!" And for good reason--it's STUPID!
Posted: 02/24/11, 19:45:00  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 19:45:16
TriforceBun said:
Good idea, except that they have a very strange classification system: they pick three games per "genre" for each system: Adventure, Action, Target, and Strategy.

WTF is Target? Is that a shooter?
Posted: 02/24/11, 19:46:58
@Zero
Point Blank, baby!!

@TriforceBun
But then you have to define ar... hey, how did we start talking about this?!

I'll give my personal definition of art: Any work is art if its creator(s) intended it to be art and/or if the users perceive it as art. Art really does seem like a perceptual thing to me.

I'm going to go look it up in a dictionary.

@Simbabbad
Except 'bird' is a scientific classification. Even if genre classifications help to analyze things, who does the appellation 'art' help? What difference could it ever make? SHOULD it ever make?
Posted: 02/24/11, 20:13:33  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 20:19:53
I don't consider any of those you mentioned in the title to be platformers. I guess MegaMan kinda is, but still, not really. Too much shooting. I think the Euro term "run 'n jump" is more accurate at describing what platformers really are.

Edit: or is it "jump 'n run"? Eh.
Posted: 02/24/11, 21:28:46  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 21:29:24
Bump 'N Jump?

Posted: 02/24/11, 21:36:11
More important than games:

Tomato, plant or vegetable?

I know what science says, but I think they're wrong.

@Simbabbad That's what I always say too. A lot of the art of game design is under-appreciated next to the art of graphix. Almost to the point where I've seen several people almost insist that once you have the tech stages design themselves, like we could all just get on a NSMB level editor and knock out the kind of stuff Nintendo does. And there is of course game music, which can be standalone, but can become a whole new thing when done in a game like BIT.TRIP RUNNER, which becomes a huge coherent visual/audio/gameplay experience.
Posted: 02/24/11, 22:56:43  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 22:59:33
^Tomato is a fruit-bearing plant

Platformers=platforms

A game can be a platformer as well as other genres, games are rarely one thing these days.
Posted: 02/24/11, 23:01:05  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 23:01:39
Yeah but it tastes like a vegetable. I'm not going to let SCIENCE be the be all and end all of classification.
Posted: 02/24/11, 23:04:41
It tastes like a tomato
Posted: 02/24/11, 23:06:40
@Zero
I thought of this game too!

And I think you mean "fruit or vegetable"! If seeds make something a fruit, then wouldn't pumpkins be fruit. I'm not so sure about olives either...
Posted: 02/24/11, 23:13:22
@TriforceBun Yes, those are both fruit of a fruit-bearing plant.

Vegetables are plants too btw.
Posted: 02/24/11, 23:14:22  - Edited by 
 on: 02/24/11, 23:22:16
@Zero
Anything with seeds is a fruit.
Posted: 02/24/11, 23:18:08
Only if you're brainwashed by scientists.

I'm only half serious, but my point is... classifications are based off of a specific intent. Scientific classifications are only one way of classifying things.
Posted: 02/24/11, 23:22:47
The main element of Contra is shooting, but it can satisfy that platformer itch; especially with certain titles. Some games like Super C don't really have as many "platforms", but the original Contra definitely does. Even with Super C though, you're jumping around a lot of the time, but mainly to avoid enemy bullets.

Mega Man I can see calling a platformer. I never thought of it as one at the time, but since revisiting the series a few years ago, it's really occurred to me how little focus is placed on shooting enemies, in comparison to games like Contra or Metal Slug. In every single main game of the series, platforming is a major element.

I'm not as familiar with the other two series, but I can see calling Castlevania a platformer, and what I played of Ghosts'n'Goblins seemed like a platformer as well; just like a really ridiculously insane platformer.
Posted: 02/25/11, 00:08:57
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