Luckly for old-school gamers, there are plenty of two-dimensional games on portable gaming devices like the GBA, DS, and PSP. However, when it comes to modern home consoles like the Wii, XBox 360, and the PS3, quality 2D games are getting harder to find and often get overlooked. In this feature, I wanted to focus on the upcoming two-dimensional games that are confirmed for these modern consoles and their download services.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
Platforms: XBox Live Arcade, Playstation 3 Network
Release: Q4 2007 (?)
This High-Definition remix has to be one of the most anticipated XBox Live Arcade titles since, well, the original Street Fighter 2 release and will most likely be the biggest success on the Playstation Network.
All the revised artwork (output in 1080p) is created by the team behind the official Street Fighter graphic novels, UDON Comics. The UDON team is striving to give a modern look to every element of the game while keeping its original style. This includes not only the character sprites, but the backgrounds, character portraits, and title screens.
All that Capcom has shown off thus far is individual pieces of artwork (you can see them all in this slideshow), so we haven’t yet seen this high-definition jewel in motion yet. UDON has said, however, that there will be no additional frames of animation for the character, so you will not see silky smooth movement to rival Street Fighter 3. This primarily done to keep all the established Street Fighter 2 junkies from having to re-learn their timing for killer moves. (Cutting production costs could be another motive)
The optimist in me says that with all the work they are putting into this remake, I don’t think that Capcom and UDON will let Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix be anything less than incredible. As can be expected from a high-end XBLA release, the game will have online play, training mode, voice chat, and online ranking lists and leaderboards.
Platform: XBox Live Arcade
Release: Q1 2008
In the past I have professed my love for Alien Hominid, experienced many a laugh from Dad N Me, but I have been eagerly anticipating a new multiplayer game from the indie geniuses at The Behemoth. After nearly two years of waiting, we may actually be able to experience Castle Crashers in a few more months.With Alien Hominid, The Behomoth started with strong influences from Contra and Metal Slug and blended in their own style and polished it with modern gaming gloss in order to resurect a genre that has been forgotten by the gaming masses. Castle Crashers continues in that tradition by utilizing a gameplay technique similar to the Sega Saturn classic, Guardian Heroes and NES cult favorite, River City Ransom.
Like Guardian Heroes, each of the four differently-colored characters has their own fighting style, special attacks, and abilities. In addition to the standard brawler formula, characters can level up throughout the levels in order to build up their abilities. These RPG-like elements are the characteristic that made Guardian Heroes and River City Ransom stand out in a sea of side-scrolling beatemups.
As if the standard adventure mode and game’s slick and humorous style wasn’t enough to get old-school fans excited, we now have a glimpse into the additional multiplayer modes that Castle Crashers will offer. The first competitive multiplayer mode The Behemoth showed off lets you duke it out against your friends while using your character’s specific powers. The look and control is much like the main adventure mode of the game, but the gameplay is more like an arena fighter like Power Stone 2 or Rakugaki Showtime.
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3 Network
Release Date: Q4 2007
At first glance, you may think that Everyday Shooter is just another Geometry Wars clone. However, once you really look deeper into the game’s goals, you will see that there is a more creative aspect to this independant offering.
Everday Shooter’s creator, Jonathan Mak had two major game inspirations before starting development. The simple chain-reaction-based gameplay of Every Extend set the groundwork for the overall gameplay mechanic, but the dynamic nature of the modern puzzle game, Lumines was also a heavy influence in terms of design and the staging of the shooter.
In an interview with Gamasutra, Mak shared, “The thing I loved about Lumines was how each skin was like a completely different unit of the entire package. Yet each skin was very much related to one another. It’s just like a music album! But, I wanted to follow this album analogy beyond looks and sounds. I wanted to make separate games just like how an album is made of separate songs. It wasn’t hard to think of a common thread that would link each of the games. As I mentioned before, I desperately wanted to simplify, so why not take the most archetypal video game and make a bunch of those? For me, that would be the shoot-em-up.”
While Mak doesn’t mention it as an inspiration, the audio qualities of Everyday Shooter seem like they are essentially a guitar version of Rez’s techno-based audio experience. “In the game, all the sound effects are notes from the song or guitar riffs, and none of it is beat synced. Despite this, the soundscape doesn’t turn out to be some sort of random mess. This is because, much like everyday soundscapes, there is an order to the way sounds are triggered, and the order is directly correlated with the game. If you shoot one type of enemy, it plays one type of riff. If you shoot another type of enemy, it plays another riff. And if you shoot nothing, then no sound will play. So there is a lack of rigidity, which makes the soundscape more organic.”
Still want to see more? Check out these video clips to get your imagination wandering.
Platforms: XBox Live Arcade
Release Date: Q4 2007
Established shmup publisher, Hudson is teaming up with Natsume (the team behind Harvest Moon) to create what may be the freshest and one of the most challenging 2D shooters of recent years.
Like most modern shmups, Omega Five is stricktly 2D in terms of gameplay, but does feature 3D elements. One particular gimmick for this game is that enemies can emerge from the 3D background and not just from the top and bottom of the screen.
Omega Five is also unique in that players can choose from multiple humanoid characters, each with their own unique special attacks and upgradeable weapons, which they can shoot in 360 degrees.
In their informitive preview, IGN discusses the control scheme:”As your player hovers over the screen, like Space Harrier from a different perspective, you can navigate them with the left thumbstick. The right aims in 360 degrees giving the control a similar setup to the familiar Geometry Wars.”
IGN also discussed the power-up system in greater detail: “Orbs of three different colors will occasionally appear on screen. Each color corresponds to a specific power-up. Collect three of the same to fully charge up your weapon and unleash hellfire. Switching to another color will reset your power-up on every weapon type, so choosing which to collect is important. In addition to the gun power-ups, pink chips that explode out of downed enemies can also be collected. With enough of these, you can unleash screen clearing special attacks or hold onto them to make use of small shields they can generate.”
Like most XBLA title, Omega Five is a rather short game, but the deep gameplay mechnics, offline co-op mode, and challenging opponents (which require a heavy dose of memorization) should keep even hardcore shooter fans busy for a while.
Oboro Muramasa Youtouden
Release Date: Unknown
If you like two-dimensional games and you haven’t yet heard of Vanillaware, I’ll fill you in….
There was once this obscure, Japanese import on the Sega Saturn by Altus, by the name of Princess Crown. It was a side-scrolling action RPG that had real-time battles that had mechanics similar to sidescrolling beatemups. It also was one of the most beautiful 2D games on the two-dimensional powerhouse console. Fast-forward about a decade… The team that worked on Princess Crown formed their own development house and eventually named themselves Vanillaware. Recently, Vanillaware has created a following because of their legacy of beautiful 2D games such as Odin Sphere (the spiritual sucessor to Princess Crown) and GrimGrimoire on the PS2.
With two stunning PS2 games under their belt, Vanillaware is moving onto a newer machine to do their two-dimensional bidding. The XBox Live Arcade might have been the most logical choice for a 2D Action RPG, but the fast growth of the Wii install base must have convinced Vanillaware to take a chance with Nintendo’s wonderbox with it’s ninja-based adventure.
For those that are wondering about how the Wii’s controls will work for a 2D action game, the game is said to have two different methods of control. One set of controls will be for casual players that will presumably involve the Wii Remote, and another set will be tailored for hardcore players who’d prefer a more precise method.
Other than all that information above and these magazine-scan screenshots, there isn’t much else we know about Oboro Muramasa Youtouden. So far, it is also a Japanese-only release, but there is definately a chance that it will come to other countries (maybe with a new title) much like its older siblings.
Platforms: PC, Playstation 3 Network
Release: Q4 2007
Up until XBox Live Arcade came along, the only way you could play a wealth of modern 2D shooters was on the Sega Dreamcast. Now that the XBLA and the Playstation Network offer an easy way to effectively sell and distribute these niche games, we are seeing quite a few shmups being developed for download services.
Söldner-X: Himmelsstürmer looks to be an ultra-modern 2D shmup that has a number of fresh innovations such as weather effects, collection quests, tactical elements, and a rich weapon upgrade system. This shmup also includes 2-player co-op gameplay and six difficulty levels to keep shooter fans happy.
Online retailer, Play-Asia, is backing this game financially and will be selling the PC version, so there should be some quality behind Söldner-X’s promises. Time will tell if the game will indeed hold up to the classics like R-Type, Gradius, and Ikaruga or if it will fall into mediocrity like the Neo-Geo’s Last Hope.
Platforms: Wii and Playstation 3 Network
Release Date: Unknown
The platformer genre seems to be one of the optimal game types to take advantage of the benefits of 2D gaming. Running and jumping is always a bit more precise in two-dimensions and the atmosphere lends itself well to hand-drawn artwork. Eternity’s Child looks to make the most of the 2D capabilities of modern consoles by giving live to an imaginative hand-drawn world featuring an orphaned, wingless angel.
This platformer was originally being developed for the XBox Live Arcade, but due to the high-resolution art and the XBLA 150MB size limit, developer Luc Bernard is moving the whole production to the Wii for a retail release. Development will have to be fundamentally restarted on the Wii, but Bernard will be staying with a traditional control scheme, shying away from Wii’s motion controls, instead opting to possibly throw some kind of functionality in here or there, in a smaller capacity.
The game has also been confirmed for the PS3’s download service, but not further details are availible at this point. I would also think that an XBLA version would also be a possibility once the file size limit is raised.
No matter what service it shows up on, the game will feature completely hand-drawn graphics and orchestral soundtrack, as well as two-player co op to give retro fans plenty of fun.
Platform: XBox Live Arcade, PC
Release Date: Q1/Q2 2008
If you prefer more puzzle-solving in your platformer than standard running and jumping, Braid may be the best fit for you. This quirky game features a little guy in a suit and revolves around manipulating the flow of time. The player journeys through a series of worlds; in each world, time behaves differently. The game takes an unconventional stance about what is fun to play, and what the player should spend his time doing.
As Joystiq stated in their hands-on preview, “the player’s time is more precious than his life. Indeed, any time your portly, suit-clad avatar dies, you can simply rewind the action a la Prince of Persia to go back to a safer portion of the level. Unlike PoP, though, there’s no limit to the length or availability of your rewinds in Braid, meaning the only thing you lose if you make a mistake is a little bit of time spent rewinding… Since there’s no real risk of death, the focus of Braid is on solving puzzles more than reflex-based action. Playing with time is the key to solving most of the brain benders, with each world putting its own unique spin on the flow of time and space. In one world, for instance, some enemies and items are immune to the time-shifting abilities, meaning you can pick up a key from the bottom of a pit and then carry it with you as you rewind back to the cliff above. Other worlds let you create clones that copy your last few moves; slow down time in a small bubble and even control time just by moving left and right.”
These puzzle-solving mechanics remind me of a cross between Viewtiful Joe and Hiro Nakamura from Heroes — two very good things in my book. I can’t wait to see how Braid turns out after futher polishing. You might want to take a look at this developer interview if you would like to learn more about this interesting game.
Platform: XBox Live Arcade
Release Date: Unknown
This first-ever XNA-created game may look like yet another Geometry Wars clone, but it is, in fact, “a co-op action game in which teamwork matters like never before, as gamers and their friend or AI ally protect each other from barrages of glowing enemies.” Essentially, you pick your color that determines what kind of enemy you can kill – and you depend on your partner to destroy the enemies you can’t defeat.
Of course, this mechanic seems a bit like Treasure games, Ikaruga and Silhoette Mirage, but it is interesting nonetheless. There hasn’t been much more information released just yet, but you can get a better feel for the game by watching this gameplay trailer.
Sendoku Basara / Devil Kings X
Platforms: Playstation 2, Wii
Release Date: Unknown
Capcom had our hopes up with the announcement of a fresh 2D fighter. Instead of a new Street Fighter installment, we will be offered a fresh 2D brawler developed by the team behind the Guilty Gear X series. The game will be based off the Sengoku Basara franchise, known in the USA as Devil Kings. The game already has a couple 3D hack-n-slash action titles on the PS2, but Capcom apparently thought the series would do well in this old-school genre as opposed to the crowded action/adventure arena.
So far, it looks as if SBX will include 10 playable characters plus what is known as a “Reinforcement System,” which enable you to call a companion for assistance in battle. Your companion can use reinforcements attacks, counter attack and assist attacks. Those of you familiar with the Marvel vs Capcom games will remember a similar gimmick. Time will tell if this addition will be more usefull than in Capcom’s previous efforts. Supposedly SBX will have different button commands for your ally characters in different situations/effects such as aerial attacks and guarding. The Madman Cafe Forums had a nice post t that touched on this Reinforcement System in greater detail.
To get a better feel for the game as a whole, check out these fresh gameplay videos from an arcade test location.
Other Ones To Watch
- Kiki Kai World – A sequel to the cult classic Kiki KaiKai series, known more commonly as Pocky & Rocky in North America. Kiki Kai World, like its predecessors, is a scrolling shooter and is expected to strongly resemble previous entries in the official series. It has been described as having all the trappings of arcade classic including “fast, finger twitching shooter action”. It retains the traditional hand drawn 2D animation and over the top enemies, gigantic bosses, and special attacks that are a trademark of the series. If I had more info and screens for this, I’d have it in the top 10.
- World of Goo– At this point, I assume this is only slated to be a PC game for now, but it looks so cool, I just can’t help but mention it. Seems a bit like Roco Loco in terms of style, but you need to see it for yourself. [screens and video]
- Mamonoro– Japanese shooter developer G.rev (creators of Senko no Ronde, Border Down and Under Defeat), are co-developing the game with a group called Gulti (which is based off the team behind the Raiden series). So far, it is only confirmed for the NAOMI arcade hardware (big brother of the Dreamcast), but a console port probably will follow.
- Illvelo – Teamed with previous shmup releases Radilgy and Karous, Illvelo will be the third in a series of cell-shaded shooters that have been relatively popular with Dreamcast fans.
- Two New PixelJunk Games – PixelJunk just released an interesting 2D racing games, but has just released teasers for their next projects. Not much is known about these games other than some teaser images and speculation. I’m still interested.
- Exit – This puzzle platformer was one of the few PSP games that caught my attention. After disappointing sales on Sony’s troubled handheld, Exit is making the jump to the XBox Live Arcade where it can stretch out in high definition and get more exposure.