Making the Transition: Jumping into a New Dimension - Will Sora Layton Blog - www.GameInformer.com
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Making the Transition: Jumping into a New Dimension

A lot of the most popular franchises today started off on a 2D playing field. The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario, Metal Gear, Pokemon, Sonic the Hedgehog, Final Fantasy, Grand Theft Auto, and Fallout all were limited to sprites, albeit in different perspectives, from side-scrolling platformers to top-down, and isometric ways of playing. Another thing all of these titles all have in common is that the entries in those series today have moved on to 3D models, for the most part.

Ace Attorney-Dual Destinies is just one series to recently hop on the 3D bandwagon.

After I tried out the Japanese demo for Ace Attorney-Dual Destinies, I discovered that the 3D models the game employs look very, very good in gameplay, and offer tons of more detail and more fluid animations than the previous entries. Seeing this has gotten me thinking about the aforementioned transition between 2D and 3D in some titles, and I thought this unique idea would make a good blog, since I haven't seen the topic explored before, I think. I'm going to look at some previous successes and failures for games that started using 3D, some games that have more recently done so, as well as my thoughts about some titles that could possibly undertake it in the future.

So first, let's look at some of the most successful transitions in gaming history, and how their success has affected their success in their future installments. Nintendo's three most popular series-Metroid, Zelda, and Super Mario, have all undertaken the transition with amazing success. The latter two both first had their 3D titles on the Nintendo 64 with Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64, respectively, and Samus explored a 3D environment in Metroid Prime on the Gamecube a few years later. Ocarina of Time mostly employed the same formula as its console predecessor, A Link to the Past, while creating a large open world to explore. What made the Hyrule of Ocarina stand out was how much it stretched out before Link after exiting Kokiri Forest, which awed many gamers, and helped to cement the game as many people's favorite to this day. Super Mario 64 broke away from the traditional side scrolling to a full 3D environment, and offered several distinctly different worlds for Mario to jump into. While similar in base form-Mario visiting different themed worlds, with small, similar levels inside them, the exploration and mystery of Peach's castle in 64 made the game seem so much larger in scope and wonder, and left its mark enough to be considered one of Mario's best outings.

Exploring Tallon IV was one of the best experiences the Gamecube offered.

Metroid, on the other hand, made the jump to 3D from a completely new studio, instead of the teams that had been building its titles before. It also experienced the most radical change, having a first-person shooter/exploration game instead of a 3D action/adventure like the other two titles did. Metroid Prime succeeded so well because it created the same formula in 3D just as well as the other titles, but it also brought new a new direction, appealing to new crowds, while still keeping the old ones. There was arguably a greater sense of exploration, because of the lush environments with hard to find secrets, and the ability for Samus to discover these secrets by scanning the environment for lore and data.

Moving on from purely Nintendo, a couple other series from the original 16-bit days that had transitions were Sonic the Hedgehog and the Final Fantasy series. Final Fantasy had its first 3D title when Final Fantasy VII launched on the PlayStation 1, and Sonic R on Sega Saturn. The JRPG giant's first 3D entry was very successful, with people marveling at the now cringe-worthy models within the game, though for people like me who began gaming only a few years ago, I understand how much of an impact their use had on gamers at the time. Using 3D models made the characters seem more real, and also literally gave more depth to the world in and around Midgar, like a fresh coat of paint. According to Wikipedia, Sonic R was the actual first 3D Sonic game, instead of Sonic Adventure like I thought...so, in any case, we can see that Sonic hasn't had as good of a transition, with many entries being shunned/forgotten by the Sonic fanbase, since I've never seen Sonic R before writing this blog, and even mentioning the word unleashed will make some people squirm.

Sonic is most likely the most notorious bad transition the gaming industry has seen, or the most famous bad one, mainly due to the poorly received Sonic and the Black Knight/Unleashed sort of games. Although there have been some popular ones, like Generations and Colors, no one can deny how the titles aren't as well received as they once were. Sonic the Hedgehog just seems to be a series with a lost identity, and has been struggling to find a balance between 2D and 3D, which makes it a prime example of how mixed the transition can be received. To be honest, I couldn't really think of any other series that have been poorly received after they started coming out in 3D. I myself miss sprites being used in the Pokemon Mystery Dungeon series, and despite the 3D being done well in Mask of Miracle, I prefer the prior Layton games. If anyone has any personal ideas/preferences on this matter, just put those below in the comments for some discussion!

I honestly forgot about this game, even though it is a major part of the list of successes.

Finally, before I move on to the second part of this blog, I realize there is one very major franchise that also made this jump, and I didn't think of it because I haven't played it: Grand Theft Auto. The crime series made its 3D debut in 2001 with Grand Theft Auto III, and is well, probably the most successful game series to make the transition sales wise-Super Mario and Zelda could be considered critically better. While the series has been largely successful due to its open-world and freedom aspects, the transition to 3D, as I understand, wasn't really a formula change, such as the other successes were. It kind of took an Ocarina of Time route, I think, because now you could see the city/Hyrule in a larger scope, and see all the places you could go instead of one limited frame. Seeing Liberty City in this scope could only enhance the sense of freedom, similar to Metroid and Zelda's enhanced desire to explore the vast world. To put in one last game here (I can't believe I forgot about this one)-Metal Gear Solid also was a huge success, moving to a 3D environment, and still functioning like the previous Metal Gears. The original PS1 game's success can be attributed to its cinematic cutscenes not possible in 2D, as well as it somewhat being the same formula as Metal Gear II, because of the recurring themes in it.

Yeah, uh, this is my favorite game to move into 3D.

Now that I've looked at some successes and failures, let's move on to some more recent examples. What's funny is that most of the ones I've thought of are actually all series on the Nintendo DS, that are moving onto 3D on the 3DS. The ones I've come up with are Professor Layton, Ace Attorney, Zero Escape, and Pokemon. The first three are different after the transition by having 3D environments, which allow for the player to look around the environment better while searching for items/puzzles. Pokemon's seems to be more about cosmetics, with battles now being in 3D. We haven't seen much about how the player moves around in the environment yet, so I'll wait to reserve complete judgement.

The last other semi-recent franchise I can think that made the change has been the Fallout games, after their ownership was moved to Bethesda. Arguably the most radical change of any of the previously mentioned games, as it moved from an isometric view to a first/third person perspective, and also just looks super different. It's probably be hard for a person who had never seen them before to make the connection that they were both from the same series, as opposed to most of the other games on the list. 

I'd love to see this done right. 

Finally, before I close this out, I'm going to look at some possible franchises that could make the jump in the future, and some I want to. The biggest one I personally want is, of course, a sequel to The World Ends with You. I'm sure Jupiter could do it right, but there is a possibility a 3D model game could be out of TWEwY's style, so I'll be cautiously optimistic about it. Other personal hopes of mine? Well, I'd love to see a 3D remake of Chrono Trigger, just to see how it would play out (curse that fan project being shut down), as well as remakes of the original Phoenix Wright games in 3D like Dual Destinies. I would pay a lot for those.

Now, for series I predict to go the 3D route-well, Pokemon seems to be going entirely that way, so I assume the next Ranger game will be in 3D as well. And well...I actually can't think of anymore. I scrolled through a list of 2D games, and most of them have 3D entries in their series, or will most likely not go into 3D. Maybe a Mega Man game more like the normal series, instead of Legends, but with more traditional bosses? I'm not really sure-if anyone has any ideas, just put them below, because I'm really at a loss on this one too.

Well. I guess that'll be it for today-as I mentioned, if you have any other ideas for series you'd like/expect to see in 3D, just start a discussion below! And, I realize there are more games that have made the leap to 3D than the ones I mentioned-I just don't want this extending on for several more paragraphs. In any case, happy blogging people.

Also, 3D games have more glitches to exploit! Yay!

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