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The RetroBeat: Sony recommits to 3D platformers with PlayStation 5

The Playstation 5 isn’t retro. Heck, it’s the opposite. The system isn’t even out yet. Still, this week’s PS5 reveal was giving me some nostalgic vibes, and it’s all because of the focus on specific genre: 3D platformers.

Games that focus on cute characters jumping their way through colorful levels in 3D spaces used to a big part of the PlayStation platform. Series like Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon helped to establish the PlayStation brand. 3D platformers were even more important on PlayStation 2 thanks to franchises like Jak & Daxter, Sly Cooper, and Ratchet & Clank.

Ratchet & Clank still had a strong presence on PS3, but it was clear that we were out of the golden age of 3D platformers. Jak & Daxter developer Naughty Dog put its attention to third-person action games like Uncharted and The Last of Us. Sly Cooper studio Sucker Punch created the open-world franchise Infamous. Even Insomniac, which still made plenty of Ratchet & Clank games for PS3, split its focus to a new first-person shooter series, Resistance.

Things felt more dire on PS4. Sure, we got one more Ratchet & Clank game and the excellent Astro Bot: Rescue Mission (which you need VR to experience), but most of Sony’s big exclusives were open-world and third-person action games. Except for Knack, which is kind of a platformer … I think.

Cute characters welcome

That’s why I’m so happy that Sony showed off so many 3D platformers during its PS5 event. The new Ratchet & Clank, Rift Apart, looks fantastic. It’s the strongest showpiece for next gen hardware yet, with its colorful world filled with movement and action. Seeing Ratchet travel through different worlds via portals with just a second or two or travelling time also shows how the faster loading of the solid-state drive can actually make games more interesting.

While many expected a new Ratchet & Clank, I don’t think folks were planning on an Astro Bot sequel. And unlike the original, Astro’s Playroom won’t require VR. I’m so excited for more people to get to try out the fun and joyful gameplay that I experienced in Rescue Mission.

And that wasn’t the only surprise. LittleBigPlanet’s Sackboy is getting his own game. Instead of a 2D platformer with an emphasis on making your own levels, Sackboy: A Big Adventure looks to focus on 3D platforming (alone or with up to three friends). As someone who never liked LittleBigPlanet’s creation tools but found the Sackboy character enduring, I think that this is great.

I’m hoping that this is just the start of 3D platforming on PS5. The successful Crash Bandicoot and Spyro remakes opened everyone’s eyes to how great (and profitable) these games can be. I want Sony to keep investing in new games, and I also hope that we see some other classics get fancy remakes (that Ape Escape trilogy is just waiting).

The RetroBeat is a weekly column that looks at gaming’s past, diving into classics, new retro titles, or looking at how old favorites — and their design techniques — inspire today’s market and experiences. If you have any retro-themed projects or scoops you’d like to send my way, please contact me.

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