Sunday, October 24, 2010

Mid-development hardware change

Level 5’s new RPG, Fantasy Life, has switched from the DS to 3DS, and in the process seemingly undergone a major change in graphical style... Which made me ponder previous such hardware shifts.

When I first started on this blog, one of my intentions had been to repost snippets of interesting forum discussion which would otherwise be lost to a possibly very insular group. I never did mainly due to laziness, and my HDD folder for this blog is replete with 20 unfinished entries. Anyway, the images here and hyperlinks were lifted wholesale from SelectButton’s private forum, the work of Dark Age Iron Saviour. What had the potential to be an enlightening discussion about the nature of new hardware, the abandonment of the old, plus highlighting of many related examples such as Mother 3 and Ico, soon de-evolved into a disturbingly moronic argument about developing countries, white guilt, and New York pizza.

It was all unfortunate, since I find the following comparison screens quite fascinating, and I feel there is tremendous mileage for discussion in this topic.

Taken from Hellforge:
Japanese RPG publisher Level-5 has announced a new game for the Nintendo DS called First Fantasy Life. The game is under development by Mother 3 creators, Brownie Brown; and its soundtrack is being composed by none other than Square Enix alumnus Nobuo Uematsu, who’s providing the game with 21 songs. First Fantasy Life is described as a game made up of many individual vignettes or storylines, all of which contribute to the final ending of the game. Each individual ending is also said to feature an original song by Uematsu.

Fantasy Life, the DS game (beautiful artwork on this link):

Fantasy Life, reborn as a 3DS game:

Personally I like both the original 2D and the remade 3D style, since as one person put it, they transformed charming sprites into equally charming polygon models – some even speculated the 2D images could have been from a non-playable build, and were more like concept work.

What I do not like so much, is the idea that a company, seeing new hardware, will suddenly feel the need to make drastic changes when they don’t add anything worthwhile. In this case it’s not a huge loss (apart from now needing to buy new hardware to play it), but it concerns me to think about all the games where MOVE or KINECT functionality will be shoehorned in. Did Heavy Rain really need another release which included Move control? The original wasn’t exactly fantastic in the way it handled, and Move seems like it will only make things worse. SIXAXIS controls for the majority of PS3 games felt tacked on, and in the case of Heavenly Sword, made the first-person weapon sections unplayable until I disabled it.

What other games will find themselves undergoing major and unnecessary changes now that 3DS, Move and Kinect are with us? Which charming titles will be made less enjoyable as a result?

Back to Fantasy Life...

The above appears to be the opposite of what happened to Mother 3, which started as 3D polygons on the 64DD before shifting to the GBA and sprites (and in the process gained even more charm). In fact it’s perfectly analogous, since the original spritework from FL resembles Mother 3.

This article is one of the most comprehensive I’ve seen regarding Mother 3’s transition – it’s also where I took the imagery.

Other games which I can think of which switched hardware:

The original was entirely different to the Dreamcast release, featuring a boy in a castle. Intended for the ill-fated M2 system. Not so much a redesign as a restart.

ICO (above)
This started on the PS1. Lots of imagery at Unseen 64.

Started on the N64 and was even rated by the ESRB, before switching to the Gamecube (I think Rare’s Dinosaur Planet may have been the same?).

Well, technically this was always on a computer of sorts. But I’ve seen scans of old Amiga magazines which had images of it looking drastically different to its later, ripped-off PC release. Ironically the Amiga screens in the magazines made it appear as if it were ripping off Dragon’s Lair. From random googling.

I was tempted to mention Animal Crossing and Doshin, but these did find release on the N64 and 64DD before later being ported, so technically not the same as a game which wasn’t released on its intended hardware.

I’m sure there are other examples, but I’m already finding myself too distracted to find any more. I have James Clavell’s Noble House on tape, and it won’t watch itself.


  1. Scetcz, Dinosaur Planet because Star Fox Adventures. There are a few SNES CD to SNES, and 64DD to N64: Ocarina of Time; Hybrid Heaven (original version is a gorgeous, sharp, flat shaded thing); Secret of Mana... those are just the really obvious ones. Tetrisphere started out in development for the Jag. ...

  2. Ofcourse, there is also Shenmue. Shenmue II (at least the Xbox version) has a short movie showing early footage of the first game on the Saturn. With a much younger looking Ryu Hazuki.

  3. I recall, long ago, seeing a blurb about a game called "Halo" in the Official Dreamcast Magazine, which had left the Apple Macintosh to grace Sega's console.

    While we're at it, E.G.G. (Elemental Gimmick Gear) was an awesome Dreamcast game that started as a late Saturn game.

  4. MALICE - Started life as a PS1 game ( before being retooled into an XBOX "Launch Title" that wasn't released until years after the console's actual launch.

  5. Two that come immediately to mind are Too Human and Malice, both originally for the PS1.

  6. I'm pretty sure I have some footage of the PSOne Onimusha in the making-of dvd...

  7. Resident Evil Zero was meant for the N64, but transitioned to the Gamecube partway through development. I haven't played it, but I've heard many bad things about it. None of the criticisms seem to do with the platform it's on, however.

  8. I remember seeing ff13 screens from when it was a Ps2 game. They were mostly unfinished though, so there wasn't much to compare.
    And wasn't Too Human for basically every platform between ps1 and the 360?

    I really would have rather seen FL stay a DS game. The 3ds version is such a big jump that it looks like a sequel.

  9. OK, not the same thing in the slightest, but remember how RE4 had like a billion different restarts?

    Wasn't SotN adapted from the 32X Castlevania game?

  10. It probably doesn't count as a platform change, but Team Fortress 2 and Duke Nukem had a variety of changes over their long development cycles. It would be nice to hear exactly what went on with the development of Duke Nukem after the new one is released. Prey had a crazy development cycle too.

    As for console transition, it is an inevitable part of game development. Would you want to make a game for a console on its last legs or be one of the first games for a new platforms? Some companies choose the former and others choose the latter. Customers end up with a similar decision. Do I stick with the system I have and accept a smaller influx of games or pony up for an expensive console to get the newest and greatest technology available? Again, some choose the former and others choose the latter.

  11. Resident Evil 0 was being developed on N64 but then shifted to GameCube.

    I don't think games will be forced to use kinnect, since that way the designers have to let go of a portion of system power.

    As for Move, I don't think that will happen either, because publishers don't want to risk their game sales on move. Of course, that would be another story if either Move or Kinnect sell well enough.

    IMO Heavy Rain for Move is just Sony's marketing plan to appeal move to hardcore gamers.

  12. I probably wouldn't buy Fantasy Life in either form, but the 2D screens look a lot better to me. There is clearly more useful information on screen in the 2D version, and you can read it much more quickly. 2D games are faster-paced because you can read the consistent icons instantly, while 3D objects may be warped, obscured, or off-screen entirely. Seeing a turnip from different angles may increase immersion, but this seems like the type of game where it's a lot more important to quickly see how many turnips are planted.

    While the 3D graphics are less functional, I find them more aesthetically appealing, which is interesting because I almost always prefer the look of 2D sprites. I guess the Earthbound look never pulled the right heartstrings for me. Maybe it brought back too many bad memories of Paladin's Quest.

  13. Halo: originaly for mac (as an rts) then fps for mac, then pc then xbox

    Resi evil 0, eternal darkness, dinosaur planet: n64 to gamecube

    rayman: snes to pc to ps1

    Ocarina of time 'master quest': 64dd to gamecube (special edition of wind waker)

    doshin the giant: 64dd to gamecube

    mother 3: n64, 64dd then gba

    shenmue: saturn to dreamcast

    Ect, unseen64 and xcult have a pretty full archive of these kinda games
    (bonus, conkers bad fur day started life as a kiddy game)

  14. The Ninja Gaiden reboot on Xbox was originally going to be on the PS2.

  15. I thought Rayman started on the Atari Jaguar?

  16. @Sketcz

    Wikipedia says you're right.

    Gunvalkyrie was originally developed for the Dreamcast. You can find preview shots of the Dreamcast build if you look around. I'm pretty sure that Shinobi (the PS2 game) was also originally developed for the Dreamcast.

  17. I find this sort of thing so interesting when it happens, and it reminded me of one of my favourite games. Shadow of Memories (or Shadow of Destiny in the US) for PS2 (then XBOX, psp etc) had this odd Japanese website I remember stumbling on back when the game was new. It had a lone screenshow of what appeared to be a 2D point and click adventure version of the game for either Gameboy Color or Japanese cell phones (I remember it as gameboy, but now I'm not so sure). I always assumed that development simply must've switched onto the PS2.

    I didn't save the page and greatly regret doing so now, but I don't suppose anybody else knows any more about this?

  18. Sadly no! But if anyone does, I'd love to hear more...

  19. Galleon, was to appear on dreamcast, then a launch title for the 'cube then finally come out mid xbox life.. i think it came out anyway..

    also most early sega games for xbox,ps2 and 'cube were either ports of dreamcast games or directly moved to the newer console (mainly xbox though)

  20. Panzer Dragoon, V-Goal and Clockwork Knight all started out as 32X games, I believe there are even videos for Panzer floating around out there. Sonic Adventure was originally a Saturn project (called "Sonic RPG").

  21. I recall hearing a long time ago that Lufia was originally planned for NES with a sequel on the SNES. Then they decided to drop the NES game and make the SNES sequel the first game in the series, and remake the original afterwards, which is why the timeline of the two games is backwards. Sounds a bit like a "just so" story.