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Looking back on Sprite Animation

Posted by Mr.Video on June 25, 2017 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (15)

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.

I'm back

Posted by Shadow589 on February 12, 2017 at 5:05 PM Comments comments (2)

I recently stumbled across this account (because of an email notification) and I remembered this site for the first time in years. So..... How have you guys been? I haven't talked to any of you in close to 4 years.

Review: Freedom Planet

Posted by Mr.Video on October 24, 2016 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (3)

  I’ve recently been playing an indie platforming game under the name of Freedom Planet. So, I’ve decided to write up my thoughts on the game. You could call it a review, I suppose. Anyways, let’s take a look and see what the deal is with this game.

  First off let’s just acknowledge the elephant in the room. Freedom Planet blatantly draws inspiration from Sonic the Hedgehog’s 2D outings. From the slopes and loopty-loops to it’s anthropomorphic heroes, it’s kind of hard not to think of the blue blur. Heck, to really hit things home, Freedom Planet originally started out as a Sonic fan game before the creator’s decided to make it something they could call their own. So yeah, expect a lot comparisons to Sonic the Hedgehog when reading this.

  As a big Sonic fan, particularly of the original genesis trilogy of games, these similarities were enough to entice me. After playing through the game with it’s (at the time of writing) three playable characters, I can happily say that I’m more than satisfied with my purchase. Freedom Planet is a blast from start to finish.

  While it sated my 2D Sonic itch while I wait for Sonic Mania, it also surprised me by bringing some new ideas to the table that helped distinguish it from Sega’s poster boy. Instead of collecting rings for your lifeline, Freedom Planet opts for a life-bar system. This change doesn’t really effect much outside of boss-battles, but we’ll get to that down the road.

  Another change comes from how enemies work. First off, enemies can’t damage you just by colliding with you. They actually have to go out of their way and use an attack to hurt you. This works very well, as in Sonic games it’s pretty easy to run into an enemy you didn’t notice due to moving at blistering speeds. But in Freedom Planet, this allows you to keep your speed and give you ample time to react to these threats.

  Second, they’re durable. They can’t be dealt with in a single blow, some enemies can sponge up quite a few hits before keeling over. This is a design choice I feel like is a step back. Sonic’s adversaries always went down with one hit, and his move-set allowed him to deal with them and stay on the move at the same time. In Freedom Planet, that isn’t the case. Instead of spin-dashes or jumps, your form of self-defense come from kicks and punches that don’t allow you to keep your momentum. Granted, you could just ignore the enemies and press on, but the problem with that is that enemies are surprisingly persistent. Enemies will actually chase you down, this is especially common with late-game enemies. To make things worse, if these enemies have projectile based attacks, you can actually be shot by them offscreen with no warning.

  Another thing that distinguishes Freedom Planet is it’s aforementioned trio of playable characters: Lilac the Dragon, Carol the Wildcat and Milla the Basset Hound. Each one has their own set of abilities to tackle challenges with and change up how you’ll traverse levels. Lilac brings a double jump and the ability to rocket off in an instant burst of speed through the Dragon Boost. Carol on the other hand can wall-jump in a similar fashion to Megaman X and go full on Evel Knievel once she finds a motorcycle power-up, which gives her a nice boost in speed and allows her to scale walls. Last and most definitely least is… Milla. She has the ability to create reflective shields and produce dinky-little blocks she can throw at enemies. She’s essentially the game’s hard mode through limitations. Her move-set puts her at a distinct disadvantage in combat situations, which become painfully clear during most boss-fights. The only exception being bosses who use a lot of projectile attacks, then she absolutely destroys them. But more often than not, that isn’t the case. The one thing she consistently has going for her is her flutter-jump, which gives her great vertical distance, but given how Lilac and Carol have abilities that can cover that, I can’t say there’s any incentive to play as her aside from her exclusive level: Aqua Tunnel.

  Now that we got the characters out of the way, how about the levels we’ll be playing through with them? Are they up to snuff? Well to answer that question, yes they are. All of the levels are pretty enjoyable to play through, and have their own set-pieces to interact with and shake gameplay up. One major thing I noticed about each of levels is that for the most part, endless pits aren’t present in them. This was a great design choice from Galaxy Trail, as this allows players to focus on hot-footing it through a level and keeps them from worrying about falling into any pits. In Sonic games, it can be annoying to run into a pit due to going fast, essentially punishing you for doing well in the game. So bravo to Galaxy Trail for fixing this issue without sacrificing difficulty.

  Speaking of difficulty… Freedom Planet’s bosses. Those are pretty difficult. I’ve seen a lot of people praise the boss battles in the game, calling them a high-point. And while I do enjoy how over the top and fast paced they are, I can’t say I entirely agree with that notion. For me, boss-fights were the biggest source of frustration in the game. Often times the bosses never followed any sort of pattern, making it difficult to anticipate what move they’ll use next. Sometimes bosses use moves that are impossible to avoid unless you happen to be standing in the right place when they use it. But the biggest problem I have with bosses is stun-lock, where attacks will hit you multiple times, which usually leads to your life-bar being nearly depleted. This feels unfair and overly punishing. In my mind, a player should be able to learn and adapt to a challenge and be able to clear it in one go. But in Freedom Planet, it feels like you need to die numerous times before you can recognize how to handle the situation. I admit, I’ve changed my game mode to Easy just because of how frustrating the bosses were.

  Finally, Freedom Planet also features a story with fully voiced cutscenes. So let’s cover that before we wrap things up. The CliffNotes version is that an intergalactic warlord crash lands on Planet Avalice. He begins to stir up trouble as he vies for the Kingdom Stone, Avalice’s primary source of energy and the perfect mcguffin to get his ship back in the air. Of course our heroines aren’t going to sit and let him take off with it all willy-nilly, so they set out to put an end to his schemes.

  I’ll be blunt, Freedom Planet’s story is easily the weakest part of the game. That isn’t to say it’s outright bad… but it’s easy to see an unexperienced writer was at the helm of the story.

  It’s main issue is that the plot is tonally bipolar. Cutscenes vary from Lilac and friends having a slumber party to a torture scene that wouldn’t be out of place in an MGS game. It’s just very jarring how the tone of each cutscene jumps from being light-hearted fun to grim and serious. Some parts are noticeably written in an awkward way. Drama feels unearned or I’m not sure what a character’s even talking about for a couple of lines.

  That isn’t to say the story mode isn’t enjoyable, as some characters are actually pretty fun to watch. Especially Lord Brevon, who steals every scene he stars in. Even if his brand of villainy feels extremely out of place at times. I think the story is worth experiencing at least once, just don’t go in expecting a masterpiece. Of course, if the story isn’t for you, Classic mode might be more your speed. It just goes from level to level, just like the good ol’ days.

  Well, this ended up being pretty longwinded… For those who decided to just skip down for the TLDR version, the verdict is that Freedom Planet is pretty rad. A few minor gripes here and there aside, Freedom Planet is a fantastic game that’s definitely worth your time if you enjoy platformers. Even more so for Sonic fans. It’s nothing revolutionary, but at the end of the day, it’s a really fun game. And that’s all it really needs to be. I’m looking forward to Freedom Planet 2 and wish Galaxy Trail all the best going forward!

  …Oh yeah, I had a hard time trying to transition into this during that wall of text… But the music is phenomenal. It’s seriously one of my favorite game OSTs in recent memory and it didn’t take me long to buy it on Bandcamp after I finished my first play-through. All of the tracks are real winners.

  Anyways, if you read ALL of that, you’re a super-star. Thanks for reading. ...You can follow me on twitter @MrVideo95. Or not.

  As an aside, it's been almost two years since OS put Shad out of his misery with his emergency propane tank.

Some Announcements

Posted by Shadow624 on November 16, 2014 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (9)

Hello there everybody. It has been AGES since I last posted a new update on well... anything. So it seemed appropriate to finally write one out since I have some stuff to say. Although it's nothing big, at least in my opinion.

First and foremost, Cackletta's Return is cancelled for the foreseeable future. I honestly doubt anyone will be too upset as I haven't made an update or made any progress on it in over a year. Plus if you've been to the Cackletta's Return page on the site, it's flat-out said it's been cancelled for around 4 or 5 months. So I'm sorry if this disappoints anybody, but yeah. I just don't see it happening. I'm not going to try to kid myself anymore. I'd still like to do it, but yeah don't expect it. 

Secondly and probably the biggest news on here, I asked if I could help with the Smash Bros Fangame, Super Smash Flash 2 over the summer and was finally excepted a few weeks ago. My special effects will be appearing in its next major update. Not sure what version of it they have out now, but they'll be in the next update of it. Unfortunately, they have me under an embargo where I can't show the stuff I make or release any intel about the developement of the game. I'm not really 100% sure why, but whatever. It's what they want me to do/not do and I was welling to accept that.

Alright so Dream vs. Dream... Dream vs. Dream hit an absolute point of nearly no progress in the summer. I'm not really sure what happened with the developement team, but yeah. I was the only one who seemed to be working on it for awhile. The team seems to have gather themselves up and began working again though. I wouldn't expect any major update/patch for it for a while. Maybe the beginning to the middle of 2015 we'll add a new character out and about to download. I think I'm like the only Yume Nikki fan on here, so if you don't think it's a huge deal, I'll completely understand.

Moving on to A Just Endeavor, not much to say to be honest. Vid and I haven't do a whole lot on it for a little while now. Well actually, I haven't. Vid's been doing stuff. We're slowly preparing and filling out the character Bios on the AJE page. Other than that, we've opted to change the style of the character sprites for battle sequences to something a little simplier so it's easier to work with. I myself still need to buckle down and finish that up at some point. 

And lat but not least, Battlefield of Prayers. I don't know when I'll ever get around to it, but I'd really, really like to at some point. It's a little more my style than CR since it requires no logical plot and is just all fighting and special effects. I have ideas in mind for. One of them is obviously the inclusion of Sakuya, Marisa, and Tenshi. Other than that, I wouldn't be able to explain anything else. It's a big fight after all. 

Well that's all from me for now. I thought I'd get some of this out of the way since I haven't really made a legit news entry in like forever. One other small thing I'd like to say though, I will be buying the rights to the domain again this year to keep the bandwinth size. Well that's all. Later for now. 

Smash 4 3DS

Posted by Chaos 116 on September 18, 2014 at 12:50 AM Comments comments (18)

Hey ladies and gents! I'm sure most of you guys remember me, I haven't posted an update in a while, (understatement of the century) but I wanted to see how many of you guys were gonna be playing Smash 4 on October 3rd! I was one of the lucky guys to get my hands on a Club Nintendo code from a random guy at my college, so I can assure you guys that it's pretty awesome! Let's generate some discussion! Who all is going to be getting it soon? Would you guys like to add each other so we can play Smash? Who looks like the most interesting character? How have you all been?! So many questions, so little time!


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