Updated: Aug 11
Most video game franchises use a specific view point, and this often defines both how the game looks and how you play it. For example, Call of Duty = FPS. God of War = 3rd person hack n’ slash. Metal Slug = side scrolling platform shooter.
Most franchises stick with their signature view point throughout. However, occasionally developers like to throw us gamers a curve ball by radically shifting a game’s view point mid-franchise. Not only will this alter how the game looks, but usually how it plays too. Let’s take a look at a few of these franchises, and see if the change of perspective was a wise move or not.
7: Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario
Ok, let’s start with the obvious low hanging fruit, Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario. I’m lumping these two franchises together since they have been orbiting each other for so long now that it would be rude not to. As I’m sure you are aware, both started out as 2D side scrolling platformers. (Ok you got me, Donkey Kong and Mario Bros didn’t scroll, but I’m starting with Super Mario Bros.)
Sonic the Hedgehog
Super Mario Bros
Mario entered the 3rd dimension with Super Mario 64 in 1996 for the N64, with Sonic doing likewise in 1997 with Sonic R for the Sega Saturn.
Super Mario 64
Was this a wise move? For Mario definitely. Super Mario 64 pretty much set the template for 3D platformers. Later 3D titles such as Super Mario Sunshine for the GameCube and the Super Mario Galaxy series for the Wii were superb.
For poor old Sonic it was a mixed bag. Sonic R was well received, but Sonic the Hedgehog 2006 is considered by most to be the worst game in the franchise, and one of the worst games of all time. Period. Switching back to his 2D roots for Sonic Mania was probably a wise move.
6: Thunder Force
If, like many, you are only familiar with the franchise from Thunder Force Three onwards, you would be forgiven for thinking that the franchise has always been a horizontal side-scrolling shoot ‘em up. (Yes, we know about the semi-vertical bit in ‘Ellis’ so you don’t need to point that out :-P)
However, Thunder Force One was an eight-way-scrolling semi-open-world shooter seen from a top down perspective. Thunder Force Two mixed these levels with the more conventional side scrolling design the franchise is known for. How did these eight-way top down semi-open world levels play? Frankly, not very well, so developer Technosoft’s decision to ditch them was perhaps a wise move.
Thunder Force One
Thunder Force Two
5: Duke Nukem
Duke Nukem is another franchise who’s early days bear little resemblance to the later games that made the franchise famous. Duke Nukem, with all his quips, blond hair and +10 testosterone started off as a humble 2D side-scrolling platform shooter.
Duke Nukem Two
It wasn’t until the third instalment that Duke Nukem went 3D. Was this a wise move? Based on sales figures and cultural impact it was a very wise move. Hail to the King Baby!
Duke Nukem 3D
4: Alien Breed
The first three of Team 17’s Alien Breed games were a hit on the Amiga home computers. (And the ill-fated CD32 console). They combined Gauntlet-esque top down maze shooting game play with a distinctly ‘Alien-esque aesthetic and tone.
Alien Breed Special Edition ‘92
It came as something of a shock then, when the next instalment was Alien Breed 3D. This was when ‘Doom Clones’ were all the rage, and since the Amiga didn’t have Doom, this was as close as it got. A noble effort perhaps, but even the Amiga 1200 (the most powerful Amiga at the time) didn’t have the horsepower to run 3D games properly, as you can plainly see. Was this a wise move? Probably not.
Alien Breed 3D
The franchise was resurrected in 2009 by Alien Breed Evolution for the XBox 360, which was soon followed by Alien Breed Impact for PS3 and PC. The series returned to its top-down roots, but now took full advantage of twin-stick controls, mouse-aiming and modern-day eye candy. Was this a wise move? Alien Breed: Evolution and Alien Breed: Impact were successful enough to spawn two sequels - Alien Breed 2: Assault and Alien Breed 3: Descent, which would suggest that yes, this was a wise move.
Alien Breed Impact
3: Golden Axe
The first three Golden Axe games were THE side scrolling hack n’ slash games during the 16-bit era. If back then you wanted to play out your Conan the Barbarian or Red Sonja fantasies, then Golden Axe was the way to do it.
Golden Axe One
The franchise was resurrected in 2008 in the guise of Golden Axe: Beast Rider, an Xbox 360 and PS3 3D hack n’ slash in the vein of God of War. Was this a wise move? Not really. Why? Partly because the game was terrible, partly because it removed much of what was great about the original trilogy and partly because if you owned a PS3 you could own the far superior God of War 3 instead.
Golden Axe: Beast Rider
If you are on this site, it is very likely you are familiar with the ‘Bethesda era’ Fallout Games, those being Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, Fallout 4 and Fallout 76. These are of course First-Person RPGs with FPS elements.
However, before Bethesda got involved and turned Fallout into The-Elder-Scrolls-with-guns, the franchise was an isometric point-and-click RPG with turn-based combat. (Which might have been the inspiration for VATS).
Skip to 7:58 to see the combat in ‘action’.
The shift in perspective created a radical change in gameplay and atmosphere. In Fallouts 1 and 2 you had almost total situational awareness from your God’s-eye-view of the world.
Skip to 03:31 for FPS VATS action.
Not so in the Bethesda era. Now your situational awareness was limited to what was within your field of view. Being taken by surprise was now far more likely. If you were lucky you might get jumped by a Mole Rat. If you were unlucky it might be a Deathclaw!
Hiding, sneaking, using cover and the other trappings of First-Person games became the order of the day. The shift from turn based combat to real-time FPS (if you didn’t use VATS) made for faster paced and nerve-wracking gameplay. All in all, the Bethesda era Fallouts offer a far more frightening and immersive experience. Was this a wise move? Almost certainly yes - although my underwear might disagree.
1: Grand Theft Auto
No list such as this would be complete without mentioning the Grand Theft Auto franchise. GTAs One and Two used a top-down ‘2.5D’ perspective. Not only did this give you greater situational awareness, it rendered all those unfortunate pedestrians as impersonal pixels, so you didn’t feel too bad about running them over.
Rockstar shifted perspective from GTA 3 onwards, using a predominantly third person perspective. Not only was this far more immersive in general, it had greater emotional impact, since those unfortunate pedestrians were now recognisable people, and they would only get more lifelike as the franchise progressed. The shift in perspective also improved the controls immensely. GTAs 1 and 2 were quite awkward to control (at least they were for me) but the controls of GTA 3 onwards were a dream.
GTA V introduced an optional First Person view point, which dialled up the immersivity to eleven. Now you had to look those unfortunate pedestrians in the eyes. It also made your *ahem* ‘liaisons’ with certain ‘ladies of the night’ more er, ‘visually stimulating’. (And no, I’m not going to embed a video of that, you can search for that yourself ;-)
So, were GTA’s shifts in perspective a wise move? I think the astronomical sales figures for GTA III and beyond speak for themselves.
So that was my top seven franchises that radically shifted perspective as time went on. I’m sure there are many I have missed; can you think of any others? And what are your thoughts on these perspective shifts, were they a wise move or did you prefer them the way they were before? Let us know in the comments section below.
Iain is a 40+ author and gamer from England, who started his gaming journey on the Atari 2600 36 years ago. His specialities include obscure cult classics, retro games, mods and fan remakes. He hates all sports games and is allergic to on-line multi-player. Since he is British, his body is about 60% tea. He can be reached via Twitter at https://twitter.com/IainBaker17, and contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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