Box art from the North American version of the game
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment|
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 and Ultra. It was first released for the PlayStation on 28 April 1995 in Japan, 29 September 1995 in Europe and 1 November 1995 in North America. It is the first instalment in the Jumping Flash! series, and 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 a robotic rabbit named 'Robbit' as he searches for missing Jet Pods that have been scattered by the game's astrophysicist antagonist character Baron Aloha. The game is presented in a first-person perspective, in which Robbit must explore each section of Crater Planet to retrieve all of the Jet Pods, stop Aloha and save the world from being destroyed. The game was designed as a technology demonstrator for the PlayStation console and was revealed in early 1994 under the provisional title of "Spring Man". Jumping Flash! uses much of the game engine used in Geograph Seal, an earlier game by the same developer for the Sharp X68000 home computer.
Jumping Flash! has been described as an "ancestor" as well as an early showcase for 3D graphics in console gaming. The game was generally well received by critics, who praised its graphics and its unique 3D platforming gameplay, but it was eventually overshadowed by later 3D platformers of the fifth console generation. Jumping Flash! spawned two sequels; Jumping Flash! 2 and Robbit Mon Dieu. The game was described as the third-most underrated video game of all time by Matt Casamassina of IGN in 2007. It also holds the Guinness World Records distinction for being the "First platform video game in true 3D".
Jumping Flash! is presented in a first-person perspective. The player can freely move in three-dimensional space and can rotate the camera in any direction. The user interface resembles the view through Robbit's eyes. The top part of the screen shows the remaining time, the player's score, and a character named Kumagoro—Robbit's sidekick artificial intelligence (AI) who offers the player warnings and hints. The top left corner of the screen shows the collected power-ups; the top right corner contains the radar showing the locations of objects including enemies, power-ups, Jet Pods and enemy projectiles. The bottom shows a health meter on the sides and the number of remaining lives in the centre.
The core of the gameplay is focused on 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 that continue to face horizontally when the player jumps, in Jumping Flash! the camera tilts 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 at a target indicator in the middle of the screen. The player can find and use fireworks for Robbit to damage enemies. These include cherry bombs, rockets, Roman candles and twisters.
Power-ups scattered across each world are picture frames representing carrots to extend Robbit's health, extra lives, time-outs that stop the clock and freeze 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 that are worth points can also be picked up by destroying enemies that are often anthropomorphic versions of creatures such as kiwis and penguins, but also include robots and plants. Most enemies have simple actions; they wander around aimlessly or randomly shoot and throw projectiles, and others will directly attack Robbit.
The game is composed of six worlds with three levels each, totalling 18 main levels consisting of seven boss levels and six bonus stages. The objective of the main levels in each world is to collect four Jet Pods. Landing on the "EXIT Pad" completes the level. The third level in each world is a boss fight. The level designs vary from Egypt-like deserts to rollercoaster-filled carnivals. While most of the levels are large, outdoor excursions, two are enclosed within a narrow, maze-like interior. The game features hidden bonus levels, which are triggered when secret entrances are found. Bonus levels consist of 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.
The game begins on Crater Planet and revolves around the story of an insane astrophysicist, Baron Aloha. Planning to make a large profit from his evil ingenuity, Aloha removes giant pieces of land from the planet using machines to turn them into private resorts. Aloha 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 one of their agents, a mechanical rabbit named Robbit. Robbit is ordered to explore each world to retrieve the Jet Pods, stop Aloha, and save Crater Planet from 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 that appear as small, white, five-limbed creatures with miniature palm trees on their heads. Many of the game's full motion videos feature the MuuMuus in an izakaya, recounting their defeat at the hands of Robbit.
Development and release
Jumping Flash! was developed by Japanese developers Exact (Excellent Application Create Team) and Ultra. The game was first revealed in early 1994 under the provisional title "Spring Man" as a technology demonstration for the then-upcoming PlayStation console. Sony Computer Entertainment hoped Jumping Flash! would be remembered as the first appearance of a new "platform star" with the same longevity as Sonic the Hedgehog or Mario. The game uses the same engine and shares identical gameplay traits with Geograph Seal, a 3D platform game released for the Sharp X68000 home computer the previous year by Exact. After seeing Geograph Seal and realising the potential in their game design, Sony's director of entertainment in Japan, Koji Tada, paired Exact with Ultra to develop a technology demonstration for the upcoming PlayStation console. Tada replaced Hiroyuki Saegusa as director of the game, although he had kept all key Exact staff to work on the project.
The initial development was split into two phases; Exact developed the game engine and its gameplay while Ultra designed the story, characters and 3D cutscenes, and was responsible for creating the mechanical rabbit protagonist, Robbit. Ultra felt they needed to depart from the "stereotypical science fiction vibe" that included the usual "space ranger" or double agent protagonists. To create a sense of individuality among 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 considered the first game of the platform genre to be developed with full 3D technology.
The characters were designed by the Japanese studio Ultra who renamed themselves "Muu Muu" after the creatures in the game. The music for Jumping Flash! was composed by Japanese video games and anime music composer Takeo Miratsu. Many of the tracks, along with tracks from Jumping Flash! 2, were included on the Jumping Flash! 2 Original Soundtrack album, which Miratsu also composed.
Reception and legacy
The game received generally positive reviews upon release. Critics mainly praised its unique innovation, advanced graphics, gameplay and clean textures. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly gave it their "Game of the Month" award, citing the outstanding graphics and particularly the innovative 3D gameplay. They advised older gamers the "cutesy" style is not as off-putting as it initially seems. "Major Mike" of GamePro said that despite the game appearing "strange", it had action, strategy, and "sometimes humour". Next Generation said many "of the boundaries have been redefined in a big way" with Jumping Flash!, noting the way it differentiates itself from side-scrolling platformers with a first-person perspective and explorable 3D environments. They said from "concept to execution, everything here is simply superb" and gave it a "Revolutionary" five-star rating. Japanese magazine Famitsu gave the game a positive review at the time of release.
Maximum called Jumping Flash! "one of the most imaginative, playable, enjoyable, original titles seen on any next generation machine". They criticised its length and lack of difficulty, stating it could have been "one of the greatest games ever" if it was longer and more difficult, and questioning whether it was "a really worthwhile" purchase. Game Revolution called the graphics "mind blowing" and the game itself "totally unique". However, they criticised the overall shortness and ease of the game, despite stating that the gameplay was "stunning" and its innovation unique. Andrew Yoon of Engadget similarly praised the gameplay and innovation, saying the "grainy, antiquated" graphics did no harm to the "vibrant" atmosphere of the game. IGN's 1996 review similarly criticised the difficulty, saying that despite the relatively small worlds and quick gameplay, it is "a great, genre-pushing game", also saying it is an essential for all PlayStation owners. In a 2007 review, Greg Miller of IGN criticised the graphics as "dated", having "jagged edges" and "muddled colours", and said every aspect of the game is "weak" and that it had not stood "the test of time".
Rob Fahey of Eurogamer said the game was arguably one of the most important ancestors of any 3D platform game. Speaking in 2007, Fahey asserted that Jumping Flash! would always have a "slice" in videogaming history. Albert Kim of Entertainment Weekly stated that the game was perhaps the most euphoric sensation of videogaming at the time, as well as heralding the first-person perspective as "hypnotic". Matt Thorson, the creator of the indie video game TowerFall, also praised the game, saying "something about the sensation of leaping through 3D space captured my childhood imagination".
1UP cited its first-person platforming as a precursor to Mirror's Edge, despite suggesting that the jumping has remained "woefully out of place". In 2007, Matt Casamassina of IGN ranked Jumping Flash! as the third-most underrated video game of all time.
Due to its popularity, Sony produced two sequels to Jumping Flash!, including one spin-off. A direct sequel, Jumping Flash! 2—also developed by Exact—was released worldwide for the PlayStation the following year; it 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 titled Pocket MuuMuu was released exclusively in Japan for the PocketStation in 1999 before Exact's closure.
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