Bonus theory excerpt, from my Kunio-kun review, just so you get a glimpse of what theory looks like:
I wrote:So back to Renegade then, and the number one question that any critical essay on it must ask... and try to answer. Why did this game, and the genre it launched, become such a huge success? What did it have that all previous games in the genre (the side-view action genre) lacked?
To put it briefly, and not to mince words, the third dimension.
I blew your mind now, I know.
It really is as simple as that. Belt-scrolling games were the coolest action games in the late-'80s simply because, unlike all other previous games in the side-view action genre, these ones were in 3D — and you can take this fact and go quote it on any number of forums where 2D fans hang out, and rub their pimply, snot-nosed faces in it all day long (or anyway until they ban you lol).
"But if these games were really as cool as you say, why did they disappear?", would at this point be a reasonable question.
First of all, these game were indeed as cool as I say. Names like Double Dragon, Golden Axe, Final Fight, and Bare Knuckle are still household names for a reason, this reason being that they were awesome. Second of all, they have by no means disappeared — on the contrary, they are everywhere these days, in the form of any number of Devil May Cry and Ninja Gaiden sequels and imitators — it's just that people are too stupid to put two and two together and realize it.
But let's take it a step at a time. To start off, there's no question that, as far as brawling goes, fighting in a 3D space is shitloads more fun than fighting on a single plane. There's just no way to adequately simulate the scenes of your favorite martial arts movie on a single plane, and that's why all the good action games that remained purely 2D put such a strong emphasis on some type of either shooting or platforming, or in the best of cases (e.g. the Shinobis and their ilk), a combination of both. Guardian Heroes and Viewtiful Joe appear to be among the handful of exceptions to this rule, but they are not really, since Guardian Heroes still works in a three-dimensional space since it features three tracks of movement, which is to say THREE PLANES instead of one, and Viewtiful Joe bamboozles you into forgetting how restricted a single-plane beat 'em up is by throwing as many special powers, slow-mo zoom-ins and gimmicky variety segments at you as it can (whilst Guardian Heroes achieves the same sort of effect through leveling and stat customization, remember). The case really is hopeless for pure beat 'em ups on a single plane, and the ultimate proof of that is that they have completely disappeared — or, to put it in another, equally damning, perspective, they have evolved into one-on-one fighting games, where instead of exploring complexity IN SPACE — which they can't because there isn't much of it to be found on a single plane — they are exploring it in TIME — i.e. in motion, in the moveset, the fighting mechanics. Of course, ideally you'd want to explore and maximize both aspects in a single game, which is why Bayonetta would have wiped the floor with every side-view brawler, belt-scroll action game and one-on-one fighting game (whether 2D or 3D) in existence if only... its stage designs, pacing and boss fights didn't suck so hard. But that's another essay.
So what I'd like to address once and for all is the claim of some diehard 2D fans that STGs and FTGs are fundamentally more enjoyable than belt-scroll action games, since the latter have "disappeared" but not the former, whereas in fact the opposite is true. Once you realize that Devil May Cry is a "belt-scroll" action game in the exact same way that Ikaruga is a 2D shooting game even if it has 3D graphics, your eyes can finally open wide to the truth that belt-scroll action games have never been as popular, and as numerous and profitable, as they are today — while STGs are trickling in at a rate of a couple of games a year, and FTGs, despite their ubiquity, are a relatively stagnant genre, in terms of both innovation and market share, their sales grosses and dev budgets being nowhere near the level of modern "belt-scrollers". Whoever remains dubious of what I am saying only has to play through Xbox Ninja Gaiden, and if they still fail to see how it wipes the floor with every 2D belt-scroller ever made, I am sorry, but there's nothing that can be done about them. Hamsters too prefer running inside a wheel to any number of higher activities, so don't feel too bad about it — at least you are not alone.
It's essentially the same relationship that obtains between sprite-scaling games of the '80s and '90s and their 3D successors. Is OutRun 2 not a sequel to OutRun because its graphics are 3D? Is Quake not a first-person shooter because it ditched the sprite-scaling of Wolf 3D and Doom? And would you seriously prefer a 2D sequel to Pole Position over any number of modern racing games? Why is it so hard for so many "gamers" to acknowledge the utter superiority of three-dimensional games? — Because they are mentally and emotionally stunted, neckbearded, mouthbreathing retards, that's why.
A final analogy I will offer is this: the reason 2D STGs and FTGs are still being made whereas belt-scrollers have disappeared and morphed completely into 3D brawlers is the same reason that, though cars eventually replaced and phased out horse-drawn carriages, they will never completely replace motorcycles. For the function of the car and the motorcycle are too different for these two types of vehicles to merge into one, whereas that between cars and carriages is virtually identical, hence the latter's disappearance (or, more accurately, their morphing into the former). In other words, 2D STGs feel very different to 3D STGs (i.e. to stuff like Ace Combat, X-Wing and the like), just as 2D FTGs feel very different to 3D FTGs, and that's why all four of these categories of games are still going strong today. 2D brawlers, on the other hand, feel extremely similar to 3D brawlers — because they are not really 2D! that is to say, the graphics are but not the mechanics! — and hence why only the latter have survived.
Does the above mean that every 3D brawler is better than every 2D belt-scroller? No more than the fact that men are stronger than women means that there do not exist some women who are stronger than some men. It is indeed even possible to make a car so shitty and useless that a horse-drawn carriage would be superior to it, but when we are talking about theory we are trying to establish, not the exceptions, like the imbeciles, but the rules. And it is one's capacity to recognize and acknowledge the superiority of the rule over the exception that separates the intelligent, theoretical mind from the brutish and narrowsighted practical one.
And with this we have I believe exhausted the theoretical implications of Renegade's and Kunio-kun's phenomenal success, and I would like you to devote a few seconds of silence next time you load up Bayonetta or Metal Gear Rising to the memory of the game, and the people, who made possible the masterpiece that you are about to enjoy. Would these games have been possible if, according to the wishes of the 2D fans, the devs had not abandoned the 2D techniques? (or rather, not evolved and refined them into 3D?) I remember telling Recap one day that Zero Gunner 2 is one of the STGs where the 3D graphics were essential to the game's success because of the rampant rotation effects. He replied that the rotation could have been pulled off just as well if Psikyo had opted for 2D graphics instead. And it's true — to an extent. The game WOULD have worked with 2D graphics, of course — but certainly nowhere near as smoothly as it did in 3D. And lol at the thought of it as much as you want, but Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising would also have worked as 2D belt-scrollers, just not with Game Maker for the engine or an arcade stick for the controls. You'd need a modern dual stick controller with a ton of buttons, and you'd need some serious technical wizardry and a shitload of sprite frames and scaling effects, but it could be done. Ask anyone who knows how this shit works and they'll agree. It's just that the effort would be immense, and the result far inferior to what you can get with 3D. And that's why no one does it. So try to finally understand that it was NOT the 3D games that killed your beloved 2D ones. All the genres that died, belt-scrollers included, had already been EXHAUSTED by the time developers began evolving them into 3D. I know because unlike all the poser losers who pretend to know what they are talking about in all the other sites (including the specialist ones), I was there and I played them. In the genre that concerns us here, for example, there was simply nowhere further to go from where the last belt-scrollers had left off; no more significant possibilities to explore — and so everyone, players and developers alike, simply moved on. Fighting games did NOT kill belt-scrollers, if anything they spurred on some really furious innovation in the belt-scrolling games, whose designers tried every idea under the sun in the final years, to keep the players from completely abandoning the genre in favor of the fighters — and they STILL failed to do it. Any innovation attained by the Taiwanese IGS in the aftermath of the genre's implosion is marginal at best, and it's still a matter of contention whether any of their games rival the pinnacles of the genre from the early-'90s, no matter what Macaw might try to tell you in the gamengai forums. I haven't played any IGS games yet, so I won't say anything more on the matter, but jesus fucking christ even an utter imbecile should be able to see that whatever innovation they may have made over the top Capcom brawlers is negligible compared to what would eventually be achieved BY SIMPLY CHANGING THE METHOD VIA WHICH THE GAME'S GRAPHICS ARE GENERATED. (And by the way, can the "graphics don't matter" retard brigade finally see how intimately connected the graphics are with the mechanics, to the extent that a simple change in the way graphics are rendered can help send the mechanical complexity of the game skyrocketing through the fuckin' roof?) Dragon's Crown's case, meanwhile, is even more hopeless than IGS's, since the damn thing isn't even a belt-scroller in the first place, it's a JRPG with a real-time battle system that just happens to have been modeled after belt-scrollers. In other words, twenty years after belt-scrollers died and still no one can find a way to significantly improve them without switching the graphics to 3D, and you are still complaining about the genre's "death" to us? Have you even PLAYED all the EXISTING belt-scrollers? So shut the fuck up already. Go 1CC every belt-scroller in existence, including all the console and home computer ones, and then come back here and tell me that you are not sick to fucking DEATH of them, and ready to take a look at what can be done in the same genre with three-dimensional graphics. DMC and Ninja Gaiden, Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising, that's what. And that's why the Platinum dudes are not making belt-scrollers with Game Maker on the TIGSource forums. Because they aren't retards.
That's what theory looks like. And the reason GP doesn't need it is because he is an uneducated retard who neither reads nor thinks (which last conclusion is also the product of a theory, by the way; it's called "
"). Have a good day.