|Posted by Mr.Video on June 25, 2017 at 1:25 PM|
I’ve begun to feel nostalgic for the past, specifically my teenage years when I first got big into spriting and joined Hatena. Recently I rewatched SMBZ and other sprite series, made both in Flash and Flipnote. It really brought me back to that simpler time in my life, back when we all aspired to recreate our sprite series in Flash and we all still had a strong sense of community with one another. Nowadays, what was once a hub for aspiring spriters and animators is more or less just a glorified host for the Chat room for OS and I use. People who used to be regulars eventually just vanished. I guess you can’t expect things to stay the same forever, but still, I can’t help but feel a sense of longing for those times. So in that spirit, I’ve decided to sit down and write about the past, present and future of a hobby I have since given up but still feel very passionate about: Sprite Animation.
Frankly my knowledge on early sprite animation is extremely limited. For me and I assume a lot of members on this site, sprite animation really got it’s start on August 29th, 2006 when you guessed it, Super Mario Bros. Z hit the scene. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but when I first watched the series, I was enamored with it. It really opened a whole new world for me, introducing me to sprite animation and the idea that you could actually write a fan-made story.
Super Mario Bros. Z was and still is a series with very broad appeal. It realized what was once seen to be the impossible dream of Mario and Sonic teaming up. It featured a story that had a sense of gravitas and scale while never straying too far into edgy fanfiction territory and mixed in the ever so popular DBZ action for good measure. It was also the first sprite series that really took full advantage of the Mushroom Kingdom as a setting. It incorporated old locales and obscure characters like the Koopa Bros and Axem Rangers into it’s story. Incorporating all of events of Mario’s past adventures into the story made the world feel much more grand than the typical series fair.
Just on paper it’s easy to see how SMBZ found such a big audience and has such a lasting presence in sprite animation. I could probably make an entire blog post about why SMBZ just works so well. Even today you’ll see fledgling sprite animators credit SMBZ as their main source of inspiration, if it weren’t already obvious from the over-saturation of characters like Mecha Sonic and Basilisx. It’s safe to say SMBZ kickstarted the golden age of sprite animation. But that golden age quickly ended once the plug was pulled on the series in 2012.
After it’s premature end, sprite animators were quick to try and fill the void it left by making their own continuations, sequels and even remakes. None of them made it particularly far to my knowledge. Most of them were also just plain bad to be frank. Eventually, there was a shift in the sort of sprite animations that were being made. People opted to make one off sprite fights and parodies rather than series with an overarching story. This was reflected in some very promising sprite series such as 3-Up and our very own Shadow624’s Cackletta’s Return never going beyond a single episode and the rise of series like One Minute Melee.
Now we’re at the point that I consider to be the Dark Age of sprite animation. The only consistent source of sprite animation comes from Hyun’s Dojo’s One Minute Melee and Screw Attack’s Death Battle, to an extent. Some sprite series have surfaced and found a decent audience for themselves like Mario & Sonic: Worlds in Danger and Super Mario Bros: Heroes of the Stars. I speak only for myself here, but neither one is very good at all in my eyes. I could probably write an entire essay as to why Heroes of the Stars is one of the worst fan series out there, as I’m sure my friends could attest to. Worlds in Danger isn’t offensively bad, but it’s so by the numbers and boring that I can’t find any enjoyment from it.
The recent and excellent Super Mario Bros. Z reboot gave me high hopes that we might once again see a resurgence in sprite animation and kickstart another golden age for the medium. But those hopes were quickly dashed when a year passed and there hasn’t been a single word regarding episode 2. When the reboot was first in works and we got regular updates, I honestly had faith that the series would actually have a consistent upload schedule and would at the very least reach the conclusion of the Mecha Sonic saga. Now I have no faith in seeing anything related to SMBZ again outside of the horrible fanmade continuations that will no doubt begin cropping up again in the future.
Now, what about the future? Well to be honest, I don’t think sprite animation has much of one. Really the only thing keeping the sprite animation in general alive is One Minute Melee and other small animators like XFire. I think the only thing that could really bring new life into the medium is another sprite series that really wows people like SMBZ did so many years ago. Otherwise I can’t see the medium really having much of a presence in the next ten years outside of Heroes of the Stars, which I actually feel might be completed one day for better or for worse. Still, I hope I’m wrong on that front. Though I haven’t dabbled in it outside of the role of viewer for years now, its still a craft I’m very passionate about and want to see flourish again.
Ahem, anyways I think that wraps things up. It wasn’t the most in-depth look into Sprite animation history by a long shot, but I hope it was an interesting read all the same for anyone who came across it. I might write up more sprite related stuff sometime, given that this is what the site was built around to begin with. Thanks for reading.