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The Woes of the Platforming Heroes (REPOST)
Posted on Wednesday, April 1 2009 @ 12:26:20 PST

If any of this looks familiar, its because its a re-post of the original. I'm re-posting it because I accidentally deleted it. Thanks to Google's cached pages feature and the wonderful GR community (especially Duke for suggesting the Google cache), I was able to find it again and re-post.

It seems the most famous genre of gaming is the platformer. Years and years have gone by, and the biggest staple of gaming is the kind where the protagonist, rather than shooting and killing with amusingly excessive violence and gore, instead opt to jump on their foes and reach their goals with wacky powerups and wild leaps of faith from platform to platform.

Platforming has created some of gaming's most recognized heroes and mascots. Standing at the top of all of them is Super Mario, with Sonic the Hedgehog just below him. But I'm not here to talk about the ones that are still famous and successful (... debatable in Sonic's case) today. I'm here to being back a memory of an age gone by, when the mascots of platforming were still clever and plentiful.

Many platform heroes have risen and fallen throughout gaming. Some have fallen into total obscurity today, remembered only by the people who grew up with them, or downloaded them on their Wii (or PC if you're a game pirate... or a Gamtap subscriber).

Hopefully you all remember Earthworm Jim? The classic story of the earthworm who just happened to be right where a powerful super suit was about to fall from space, and then saved the lovely Princess What's Her Name from the evil Queen Pulsating, Bloated, Festering, Sweaty, Pus-filled, Malformed, Slug-for-a-Butt. There was a real hero of platforming, all but forgotten ever since his last game, the arguably fun Earthworm Jim 3D for the N64 and PC. The series had lost its touch by then, and ever since there has not been a single game for the super-powered annelid. Jim even had a cartoon show that was actually pretty clever for a 90's era WB children's cartoon, and even though the show had its own canon, it always seemed to me that it fit just fine with the games anyway.

Gex had a short reign. He had a few good games around in the N64/Playstation era, but despite the clever writing and zany worlds based on bad TV cliches, he never really got very much success, and hasn't been seen since Gex 3. And let's not mention the handheld Gameboy Gex games that accompanied console versions, beyond this sentence.

Bonk is an even older one. Originally a defining mascot for the Turbografx, the little guy was Hudson's answer to Mario and Sonic, and with some nice success, didn't really go anywhere after the 16-bit generation. He's been seen floating around in the Wii's Virtual Console though, which is at least a step above Jim and Gex, who have nothing now.

Crash Bandicoot had some great games starting out, and was at one time considered as a mascot for the Playstation to compete with Mario. A few spinoffs and lackluster sequels later, and he's falling into the pit of Platform Obscurity. Even with a new game out just now, the game doesn't appear as successful as its developers are hoping. Spyro the Dragon, another character once thought to be a possible Playstation mascot, is doing only slightly better. Hasn't had any complete spinoffs like Crash, but his games have never really changed at all since the first game of jumping, gliding, and breathing fire like any respectable dragon should. It seems only a matter of time before both these two fall out into nothing, maybe popping up here and there, and only purchased by game critics, a few nostalgia lovers, and the occasional mother that doesn't know their kid is actually more interested in dismembering random civilians than jumping around on platforms.

Banjo and Kazooie are not so much obscure, however. Despite having only two games, both were fantastic and everyone from the N64 era who played these games remember them oh-so fondly. Not a Nintendo mascot anymore, since Rare is now owned by Microsoft, the team of bear and bird are setting up for a new adventure on the Xbox 360. For this duo, there's still hope to make a mark, as long as Rare can make the game as memorable and original as the first two games. It's too bad Conker the Squirrel, Rare's other platformer hero, kinda fell out since his last game Conker's Bad Fur Day never even got a sequel, but instead a remake that didn't make a very big bang in today's gaming market.

There are many others who had made their marks in gaming, but are seldom found today. Some of the platform heroes have made small comebacks, but ultimately were just a tiny flash in the pan. It's kind of sad, but such is the industry of gaming.

Sonic the Hedgehog even, is starting to fall. the two Sonic Adventure games for the Dreamcast and later on Gamecube were good, but not great, and Sega has continued attempting to make 3-D Sonic games with little to no success. The blue-blurred hedgehog still does very well in the realm of his native 2-D sidescrollers, in the form of games such as Sonic Rush for the DS. Sonic is still successful enough for many to know and love the hedgehog, and his appearance in the upcoming Super Smash Bros. Brawl can only help him from falling into the same path of obscurity that many others below him have.

So can we call take a moment to remember the fallen heroes? While I have only mentioned a handful, this was written with thoughts extending to all of them. I welcome you to mention any that I have not, maybe even explain their fall, and if they have appeared in anything recently.

Maybe someday, these characters will get another chance. Perhaps Gex will be picked up again, maybe Earthworm Jim will rise up once again and rescue Princess What's Her Name from the beautiful (by Insectikan standards) Queen Slug-For-A-Butt. Who knows? If such a time ever comes, I will be here, reaching out a hand to welcome them back.
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