Home > Video Games > Rush ‘n’ Attack Returns or Haven’t I Played This Before?

Rush ‘n’ Attack Returns or Haven’t I Played This Before?

Separated at birth: Contra SS; Rush ‘N’ Attack; Shadow Complex

Take a look at that image? Notice that they all look virtually interchangeable? Granted, they are all, thematically, similar in that they are gritty, ‘serious’, games with military backdrops with a complete lack of emphasis on anything akin to style other than ‘realism’, but they all also appear to be interchangeable, visually, having seemingly been built on the Unreal Engine’s Serious Business (2.5D Edition) plug-in.

So in order to determine the pathology of gray and mopey fever despite the ridiculous success of, say, the happy-go-lucky, 2.5D, New Super Mario Bros. Wii (and the super-stylized, um, stylings of Muramasa: Demon Blade), I asked some actual (no, really: actual people, not figments of my imagination) game industry types why, exactly, this complete and utter lack of cheer and saminess seeks to drag otherwise interesting games into a frigid sea of ‘seen one, seen ‘am all’-itis.

First up, we have someone that hasn’t worked on a 2D game lately but does have more recent, 3D, grittitude, on his resume:

First and foremost it’s a business and what sells, at least as far as publishers are concerned, is grim and gritty even if this isn’t strictly borne out by the numbers. I guess you could also say it’s playing it safe taken to its logical extremes or that the assumption is that people that want to play stuff like Contra and Shadow Complex prefer dank-looking games, even if one is based on a series that has always been fairly brightly-colored and the other is based on Super Metroid, which was also very SNES-telle1 in its presentation

So the moral is: money sells. Or something.

Our next contestant does have some relatively germane experience in this regard and imparts:

Almost every artist I’ve worked with seems very interested realist type art. Not every one, mind you, but many of them. They get really fired up to make a sweet looking, realistic tank, but aren’t going to enjoy creating something more stylized. Now obviously if you are a rank and file artist and you are told to make something, you’ll make it and be happy about it! But I think this attitude could extend to people in leadership positions.

So, basically, we’re at the mercy of a bunch of 20-somethings that came of age w/ the PSOne, w/ their superiors desperate for the approval that they didn’t get from Daddy as children. That or they’re suffering post-traumatic 16-bit disorder and can’t bring themselves to utilize colors that might make a child smile.

And, finally, this take, which was also echoed, somewhat, by contestant 1 and 2:

The fact of the matter is, it’s a lot easier to snap a photo of a dirty hallway and use that as a base texture in your game than being a bit more creative and there’s also a lot more reference material for the dark and dirty. It also saves a lot of time and money and, more often than not, these DL-only games have very tight budgets, so to maximize every dollar spent, we take the path of least resistance.

Got it: expediency first; love of craft out on the loading dock…behind some crates…next to a health pack.

Anyway, thanks for shedding some light darkness on the matter, gentlemen, these are all certainly reasonable points even if I’m just going to stick my head in a spent ordnance shell and pretend that it’s because all these companies hate me2, not simply because gaming is…serious business.

1 He said “pastelle”, but he meant SNES-telle.
2 Note: this isn’t a graphics over gameplay argument, but a ‘how about something less generic once in a while’ over gameplay argument, i.e. variety is the spice of life.

  1. kog3100_edw
    04/12/2010 at 15:12

    Boy, do I see your point here 100%. There’s little variety or seemingly little variety for sure. All the reasons raised might be valid but the one speaking to market forces feels the strongest to me. I think gritty sells right now. It’s in our movies, it’s in our books. It’s in our comics. And it is forever the critic/connoissuer who rails against the herd, eh? The herd has decided this is the coolest thing for now… or at least that’s how the suits percieve it. I don’t really know how Muramasa did here in the USA. Super Mario Bros. wii probably stands alone and is not a good indicator of how other IP would do.

    • ECM
      04/12/2010 at 15:16

      In Muramasa’s case, it’s more an issue of “geez, look how beautiful bright colors can be!” rather than it broke sales records. (It didn’t, but the word on the street is its performing OK.)

      The thing w/ NSMB is that it *crushed* the more technically advanced SMG by *a lot* so I think there most certainly is some lesson to be had in there and here’s hoping some other devs will at least try colorful 2D games and see what happens. (Particularly with known IP like, say, Castlevania which, despite being ‘dark’, thematically, isn’t particularly dark graphically.)

  2. kog3100_edw
    04/12/2010 at 15:22

    Yeah, I don’t mind dark and gritty as long as there are alternatives. And it isn’t like you can’t deliver emotional punch (often melodrama) or immersion in other graphical styles.

  3. 04/12/2010 at 15:27

    For the record, while I own both games and think they are both great, I will assert that while New Super Mario Brothers Wii is a wonderful game, Super Mario Galaxy is one of the greatest games of all time. It is freakin’ unbelievable. I hope the reason why it didn’t sell as well was due to the smaller install base of the Wii when it was released.

    • ECM
      04/12/2010 at 15:34

      I think the problem was it isn’t remotely as accessible as NSMB (to the average player) and there wasn’t really a proper MP mode, not so much the userbase since you have Mario Kart Wii at, like, 21 million copies sold and rising while SMG is around 9 mil, iirc.

  1. 04/12/2010 at 07:19

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