Sunday, March 13, 2011
Retro Reviews: Jumping Flash!
Jumping Flash! was released in 1995 developed by Exact Co., Ltd and Ultra Co., and published by Sony. Jumping Flash! (and yes the title includes the exclamation mark) was a launch window game for the Playstation in North America and Europe.
Jumping Flash! was one of those games that really fell outside of Sony's NA release philosophy which was based around games that supposedly appealed to older gamers, you know kind of like the evolution of Sega's Genesis marketing. So a game based around a rabbit mech really wasn't going to cut it. Got my attention in 1995, though I wouldn't get a chance to play it until I got it on the PSN.
Jumping Flash! puts the player in the robotic feet of Robbit. He is a rabbit mech who also shoots lasers. His mission: Save pieces of Crater Planet from the nefarious mad scientist Baron Aloha and his army of squid like aliens the Muumuus. The plot is silly, cute and entirely Japanese.
Jumping Flash! is spread about 6 worlds with 3 stages apiece. Your mission in most of the stages is to collect the 4 carrot shaped Jet Pods. A majority of the stages are open and sprawling with large amounts of enemies to fight and platforms to jump on. So yes this is a 3D platformer, a year before Super Mario 64 graced the world. As opposed to being in 3rd person though Jumping Flash! plays in a first person perspective. And right there I just imagined a whole bunch of people reading this give a collective groan. As we know platforming in 3D with a first person perspective is quite a tricky proposition, but Jumping Flash! actually managed to do it quite well. The biggest thing that JF! does to rectify the problems with FP jumping is that you have the ability to jump twice more in the air. This not only allows you to make corrections but when you perform the 2nd or 3rd jump Robbit's view aims down and a shadow helps you target your landing to the platform you are jumping on. Robbit also has two means of enemy destruction: Mario like jumping and double barrel laser blast. It is wise to use them in conjunction to defeat your enemies since some enemies can damage you if you jump on them or can be hard to shoot. Also be sure to take into account your falling momentum when jumping on enemies the higher the jump the more likely you are going to defeat it. And finally there are a large variety of power ups and weapons to use against your foes.
The biggest flaws in gameplay are in the two stages where the game goes mostly corridor and plays a bit like a FPS. Unfortunately the game doesn't work in the context as on foot Robbit's mobility isn't as great as his jumping mobility. So avoiding enemy fire is a bit of a pain in the butt and are the biggest drags on the game. Also when jumping sometimes the double or triple jump will fail to work and if you are trying to make a big jump can lead to an untimely death. Also the game is mighty short, only 18 stages, 7 of which are boss battles, and most can be finished very quickly. Not to mention that it is a tad bit on the easy side.
The graphics in JF! actually hold up alright as far as Playstation games go. The models are simple, the textures are good and the draw distance is mighty impressive. There is still lots of pop and fog but nothing excessive.
The sound is a bit of mixed bag. There are some nice songs but nothing memorable and the sound FX can be a bit rough especially Robbit's voice work. His screams tend to get annoying especially if you are in a situation that gets you hit a lot.
In summation, Jumping Flash! is an interesting bit of early 3D platforming. As it came out a year before Super Mario 64 it did some things that that Mario 64 did really well first but was overshadowed quite a bit by the more marketable PSX games at the time and, well, Mario 64 pretty much doing everything better. And hey it did well enough to garner a sequel which I intend to buy on the PSN as well. You can get it for $6 there so it is well worth your money if you like 3D platformers and want to play one of the earliest examples of the genre. It probably won't supplant Mario 64 in your heart if you are like me but it'll certainly give you something to think about.
+ Unique First Person platforming mechanics
+ Large sprawling levels
+ Good variety of levels
+ Nice graphics
+ Very weird
- Very short and easy
- Music isn't particularly memorable
- SFX can be kind of grating
- Corridor stages kind of suck
Extra Review: Jumping Flash! 2 released in 1996 developed by Exact and published by Sony.
Yep they made a sequel and once again before Mario 64 came out. Funny that. The story this time is that an intergalactic being known Captain Kabuki (think the King of the Cosmos' uncle) has attacked Baron Aloha's home planet of Little Muu in much the same way that Baron Aloha attacked Crater Planet. Robbit is then called in to save Little Muu from the gigantic guy.
Gameplay is pretty much the same but this time instead of collecting Jet Pods you are collecting Muus. Robbit moves a little faster and the game feels a little tighter. The open worlds of course are once again varied and fun but they insisted on two corridor levels which just aren't fun. But at only 2 levels out 18 (once again 6 worlds with 3 stages and 7 boss stages) isn't too bad. And like the first game (which I forgot to mention) there are extra modes you can access when you beat the game. Extra and super. Extra is a remix version of the stages that will get you the true ending and special basically supercharges Robbit so he can jump 6 times in mid-air, run very fast and cause yourself to fall faster. There is also a time attack mode which has you beating levels as fast as possible.
Graphics look pretty much the same, maybe a bit more polished than the first and still fit the game really well.
The music hasn't improved much but the SFX actually are a little better. At least Robbit's voice isn't as grating as it was in the first.
So all in all, pick them both up. They are fun games and a pretty decent price especially if you like unique platformers. I'd love to see Sony possibly make a new one but I'm not holding my breath.