The year was 1995 and my Plan Get an SNES hadn’t come to fruition. Too young to learn from my mistakes, I diverted recourses from that plan towards my new plan: Plan Get a PlayStation Plan. This consisted of saving my allowance, selling rare Genesis games (I’d later buy again for twice the price), and begging my parents for money.
Explaining why a longtime Sega supporter decided he wanted a PS and not a Saturn would take another article, but can easily be summarized — Sega had destroyed my faith in them by releasing and not supporting two add ons for the Genesis. The Saturn, in my eyes, was doomed to fail. And fail it did, at least in the US. Years later I’d feel slightly guilty for abandoning Sega in their time of need but in late ’95 I was ecstatic because Plan Get a PlayStation worked.
At least I was ecstatic until I played some games on it. Toshinden was a piece of crap. Sofia was a better PlayStation mascot than that weird polygon head thing, but she was in a terrible game. Loaded was bloody but it was also boring and a clear example of a developer trying to sell a mediocre game by throwing in buckets of blood (Mortal Kombat!). Twisted Metal showed a ton of promise but was still only an average game. Wipeout was an excellent title but I didn’t buy a new console to play racing games.
Then came Jumping Flash! Nearly a year before Mario 64, Jumping Flash! showed us what a new generation platformer could be. It doesn’t compete with Mario’s depth or length, but it sure was a hell of a lot of fun. Jumping Flash! consisted primarily of jumping really high repeatedly. In order to give us proper motivation to do so, we are given control of a robotic rabbit, or a robbit.
Many platformers gave us cute mascots and demanded we jump about. What set Jumping Flash! apart was two brilliant design decisions. The first one was a no brainer: make the game in 3D. This was the first game I played that gave me complete freedom in a 3D environment and I ate it up. Every 3D game for the PlayStation was also a good marketing decision since the Saturn’s 3rd party 3D titles mostly looked shitty. Jumping Flash! convinced me that 3D was not only cool looking but added something to gameplay, namely a third dimension.
The other key design decision for Jumping Flash! was the use of 1st person perspective. The title is the only console platformer I can think of up to that point that didn’t use 3rd person perspective. There are a lot of things that can go wrong in first person. Specifically, you can’t see your feet so asking the player to platform is slightly unfair. Jumping Flash! dealt with this issue by keeping you in the air for huge periods of time. While soaring, you had time to look down around you, aim landings and admire the view.
A 1st person perspective made Jumping Flash! unique, but more importantly it made the game visceral. Seeing through the eyes of your robbit while performing double and triple jumps was exhilarating. The perspective tied into the 3D design so nicely because it made the player feel the freedom that the new dimension brought, and really that new dimension was what defined that generation of systems.
Jumping Flash! 2 was excellent and the third never made it out of Japan, but that’s ok. Some fans have called for a remake or sequel with spectacular sound and a photorealistic robbit, but it would be unnecessary. Jumping Flash! has already played its low profile but integral role of ushering in a new era. Next time you think of the first PlayStation, don’t just recall Sofia’s leather clad breasts, think of Jumping Flash!