In the mid-1990’s, the video game industry was approaching a key turning point, as electronic entertainment experiences were about to shift from the two-dimensional visuals of pixels to the thre-dimensional appearance of polygons instead. This was going to create many sorts of new gaming possibilities, and represent the next major step in evolution for the medium as a whole.
As with many past technological or otherwise significant innovations, however, forward progress does not occur without some growing pains in the process. In the case of three-dimensional video games, a sequel in the somewhat popular Bubsy franchise was being developed by Eidetic for the Sony PlayStation console. The system was Sony’s first, and was being put into direction competition with Nintendo, who’s Nintendo 64 was in prime position to take the lead in 3D.
In fact, when Nintendo was set to release Super Mario 64, which would undoubtedly be a top-seller and grant millions of Mario fans the magical pleasure of their first exploration of the Mushroom Kingdom in three dimensions, the decision was made by publisher Accolade to ensure that Bubsy 3D’s release coincided with the new Mario game.
The rest is history: Whether it was due to the rushed schedule or the ineptitude of renderers not yet experienced with three-dimensional polygon graphics, Bubsy 3D was released to near-universal critical disdain. Especially compared to the colorful wonder of Super Mario 64’s in-game world, the surrealistic minimalism of Bubsy 3D’s environments, largely composed of flatly shaded boxy patterns, were absolutely dreadful. The last region to get Bubsy 3D was Europe, whose reception in August of 1996 represented the last new rollout of discs.
Then again, so were such elements as the play control and incessant one-liners that the protagonist, Bubsy, would utter. While Sony and their PlayStation machine would ultimately recover with noteworthy success, and go on to make video games both visually stunning and very enjoyable overall, the clunky out-of-the-gates failure of Bubsy 3D marked an important lesson for would-be developers to learn for the coming era of polygon-riddled gameplay. Fortunately for gamers worldwide, the games have certainly come a long way since then, and are only forging further innovations in the meantime.
Eric Bailey blogs at NintendoLegend.com, where he is reviewing every American-released NES video game. He also serves as Editor-In-Chief of retro gaming features site 1MoreCastle.com, and can be followed on Twitter @Nintendo_Legend.