Jumping Flash! North American box art featuring the protagonist Robbit
|Developer(s)||Exact Co., Ltd
Ultra Co., Ltd.
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
|Distribution||1 × CD-ROM|
Jumping Flash! (Japanese: ジャンピングフラッシュ! Hepburn: Janpingu Furasshu!?) is a platform video game published by Sony Computer Entertainment and developed by Exact Co., Ltd. and Ultra Co., Ltd for the PlayStation in 1995. The first instalment in the Jumping Flash! series, it has since been re-released as a downloadable game for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable via the PlayStation Network in 2007.
The game follows the robotic rabbit named 'Robbit' as he searches for the missing Jet Pods which were scattered by the game's astrophysicist antagonist, Baron Aloha. The game is presented in a first-person perspective, in which Robbit must explore each section of Crater Planet to retrieve all the hidden Jet Pods, stop Aloha, and save the world from its destruction. The game was designed as a technology demonstrator for the new PlayStation console and was first revealed in early 1994 under the provisional title of "Spring Man". Jumping Flash! utilises much of the same game engine as Geograph Seal, an earlier game by the same developer for the Sharp X68000.
Jumping Flash! has been described as being synonymous with Sony's début gaming hardware and as an early showcase for 3D graphics in console gaming. The game was generally well received from critics and publications alike; who praised the game for its graphics and its unique platforming style, but was quickly overshadowed by other 3D platformers of the fifth game generation such as Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot. However despite being overshadowed Jumping Flash! did spawn a two sequels, Jumping Flash! 2 and Robbit Mon Dieu. The game was described as the third most under-rated video game of all time by Matt Casamassina of IGN in 2007.
The game begins on 'Crater Planet' and revolves around the story of a mentally-insane astrophysicist, Baron Aloha. Planning to make a large salary from his own evil ingenuity, Aloha removes giant pieces of land from Crater Planet by using his "gigantic land-lifting machines" in order to turn them into his own private resorts. Consequently, he also removes and hides the twelve Jet Pods that propel each world. Witnessing the destruction, the residents of Crater Planet call for help, and in response the Universal City Hall dispatches of their agents, a mechanical rabbit named Robbit. Throughout the game, Robbit is ordered to explore each world to retrieve every scattered Jet Pod, stop Aloha, and save Crater Planet from its destruction. At the end of the game, Aloha flees to his home, Little Muu, and vows revenge on Robbit.
Throughout the game, Aloha surrounds himself with creatures called MuuMuus which are described as small, white, five-limbed creatures with small palm trees on their heads. Many of the game's full motion videos feature the MuuMuus in an izakaya, humorously recounting their defeat at the hands from the protagonist, Robbit.
The game is presented in a first-person perspective, and the player can freely move in three-dimensional space and rotate the camera in any direction. The user interface resembles that of viewing through Robbit's eyes. The top part of the screen shows the time remaining, the player's score, and 'Kumagoro' (Robbit's sidekick AI who offers the player warnings and hints). The top left corner of the screen shows the power-ups collected, while the top right corner contains the radar, showing the location of various objects including enemies, power-ups, Jet Pods, and enemy projectiles. The bottom is filled out with a health meter on the sides with the number of lives in the centre of it.
The core of the gameplay is centred around the player's ability to make Robbit jump. Robbit can jump up to three times, once off of a surface and twice in mid-air, allowing him to reach extreme heights. Unlike other platform games which continue to face horizontally when the player jumps, Jumping Flash! tilts the camera downwards when a double-jump or triple-jump is performed to allow the player to see Robbit's shadow and easily plan a landing spot. Jumping-chains can be performed using enemies and some projectiles.
The player has the ability to shoot a low-powered beam where a target indicator is centred in the middle of the screen. In addition, the player can find and use special items for Robbit in the form of fireworks to deal massive damage to enemies. These include cherry bombs, rockets, Roman candles, and twisters.
Other power-ups scattered across each world come in the form of picture frames representing carrots to extend Robbit's health, extra lives, Time-Outs that stop the clock and freeze all the level's dynamics for a few seconds, hourglasses that extend the player's time, and Power Pills that make Robbit invincible for a short period of time. Coins worth points can also be picked up by destroying enemies. The enemies are often anthropomorphic versions of creatures such as kiwis and penguins, but there are also various robots and plants. Most have simple actions such as wandering around aimlessly, shooting or throwing projectiles out randomly. A few, however, have more intelligence such as the bomb-forming beetles or missile-shooting pigs.
Jumping Flash! is composed of six worlds with three levels each, totalling 18 main levels, of which there are seven boss levels and an extra six bonus stages available. In the main levels, the objective of the first two levels of each world is to collect four Jet Pods with the letters "E", "X", "I", and "T" on them. After collecting them, landing on the "EXIT Pad" completes the level. The third level in each world is a boss fight. The level designs vary, from Egyptian-style deserts to roller coaster-filled theme parks. While most of the levels are large outdoor excursions, two of the game's levels are enclosed within a narrow interior and are somewhat maze-like. The game features hidden bonus levels, which are triggered when secret entrances are found during a level. Bonus levels comprise of various blocks with balloons in them; popping the balloons yields either coins or power-ups. A time attack mode is available for any level the player has completed. Upon completing the 18 main levels, the levels can be played again with objects rearranged and a more difficult setup.
Development and release
Jumping Flash! was developed by Japanese developers Exact (Excellent Application Create Team) and Ultra Co., Ltd. The game was first revealed in early 1994 under the provisional title of "Spring Man" as a technology demonstration for the then-upcoming PlayStation console. Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) initially believed that Jumping Flash would be remembered as the first appearance of a new "platform star" with the same longevity as Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario. Upon seeing Geograph Seal, a game released for the Sharp X68000 the previous year by Exact, and the potential in their game design, Sony's director of entertainment in Japan, Koji Tada, paired Exact with Ultra Co, Ltd in order to develop a technology demonstration for the upcoming PlayStation console. In order to same time during the development, Jumping Flash! utilised the same game engine and physics from Geograph Seal.
The initial development was split into two phases. Exact undertook the development of the game engine and its gameplay while Ultra developed the story, characters, and 3D cutscenes. Ultra Co,. Ltd was responsible for creating the mechanical rabbit protagonist, Robbit, feeling that they needed to veer far away from the "stereotypical science fiction vibe" that included the usual "space ranger" or double-agent protagonists. In order to create a sense of individuality among other platform games, the developers implemented a dynamic camera that would automatically pan down towards the shadow of Robbit on the ground during large jumps, allowing players to carefully line up their landings. Jumping Flash! was among the first games of the platforming genre to be developed with full 3D technology, vastly differing from other platforming games at the time such as Donkey Kong Country and Yoshi's Island.
The character designs in Jumping Flash! were done by the Japanese studio Ultra Co., Ltd, who were formerly known as Muu Muu Co., Ltd, which inspires the name of the MuuMuu creatures that features in all three games of the series. The music for Jumping Flash! was composed by Japanese video games and anime music composer Takeo Miratsu. Many of the tracks were included with tracks of its successor from the Jumping Flash! 2 Original Soundtrack, which Miratsu also composed the music for. The soundtrack was published by Antinos Records in Japan in 1996.
Reception and legacy
Upon release, Jumping Flash! received very positive reviews from critics. Critics mainly praised its unique innovation, advanced graphics for the time, gameplay and clean textures. "Major Mike" of GamePro noted that "while the game was strange, it is filled with action, strategy, and sometimes humour", even suggesting that it could be the game of the year were it not for the emergence of other competition at the time. Jumping Flash! received a score of 4/5 from Next Generation Magazine. Japanese magazine Famitsu ranked Jumping Flash! among the magazine's top 120 PlayStation games of all time in 2000. The graphics and textures were critically acclaimed by owners and critics alike; among them, staff at Game Revolution, whom calls the graphics "mind blowing" and the game itself "totally unique", giving it an A- score. GameRevolution staff also criticised the overall short length of the game and the easy difficulty, but nevertheless judged the gameplay to be "stunning" and its innovation unique. IGN Staff's 1996 review noted similar criticisms regarding the difficulty, stating that despite some the relatively small worlds and quick gameplay, it is "a great, genre-pushing game", also suggesting that it is an essential for all PlayStation owners.
Rob Fahey of Eurogamer highlighted that the game was arguably one of the most important ancestors of any 3D platform game at the time. Speaking in 2007, Fahey stated that Jumping Flash! would always have a large legacy in videogaming history, despite its overshadow provided by other successful 3D platformers at the time. Albert Kim of Entertainment Weekly stated that Jumping Flash! was perhaps the most euphoric sensation of videogaming at the time, praising the impressive draw distance and unique playability. Matt Thorson, the creator of indie game TowerFall, also praised Jumping Flash! through having lasting memories, saying that there was "something about the sensation of leaping through 3D space captured my childhood imagination".
Despite its innovation and critical acclaim, other 3D platformers such as Super Mario 64 would go on to become a standard for the genre. In 2007, Matt Casamassina of IGN described Jumping Flash! as the third most under-rated video game of all time. Due to its popularity, Jumping Flash! did manage to produce a few sequels such as Jumping Flash! 2 (also developed by Exact) which was released worldwide for the PlayStation a year later.
Despite being overshadowed by then-emerging 3D platformers such as Super Mario 64 for the Nintendo 64 and Crash Bandicoot for the PlayStation, Jumping Flash! gained enough popularity and interest in the Japanese market to produce two other sequels, including one spin-off. A direct sequel, Jumping Flash! 2 was released worldwide for the PlayStation the following year, which continued the story of Robbit and the subsequent rise and fall of Baron Aloha.
Robbit Mon Dieu was released exclusively in Japan for the PlayStation in 1999, and was the final instalment in the series. It was met with mixed reviews, and following Exact's merger with SCEI in 2000, the series came to an end. Both Jumping Flash! and Jumping Flash! 2 were re-released via the PlayStation Network in 2007 and 2009, respectively. A loose spin-off, Pocket MuuMuu was released for the PocketStation in 1999 before Exact's closure.
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