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Old 05-30-2010, 12:21 AM
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Default Kishi's Gift of Gif

I hope three threads in two and a half years isn't too excessive, but sometimes I just want to cut loose and start fresh. Feel me on this!

Tonight, let's look at Earthworm Jim. There's no clear consensus on whether the extra level in the Genesis version of the game is worth more than the SNES version's pretty transparencies and background detail, but Earthworm Jim: Special Edition for PC certainly presents Shiny's "Digicel" sprite animation in its most vivid, complete form.


































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  #2  
Old 05-30-2010, 12:22 AM
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Jim is a character who simply couldn't have been done justice any earlier than the 16-bit era, and this owes at least as much to his animation as to the latent complexity of his design. With no cut scenes or dialogue to explain him to the audience, his nature and personality are embodied largely in his actions. From the most decadently elaborate idle animations to the most basic verbs of a side-scrolling action game, we can clearly see how straight Jim tries to play the hero role, only to be thwarted by his own flights of fancy and the whims of his super suit, which never seems to be completely under his control. Every time the suit pulls Jim out of its collar and uses his actual body as a weapon (or even a toy), we're reminded what a fractured and hapless hero he actually is—nothing more than a giant worm, in fact, and constantly at the mercy of the source of his humanoid empowerment.


















Oh my gosh

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Old 05-30-2010, 01:01 AM
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There are no words for how much I love this animation.
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Old 05-30-2010, 01:50 AM
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One of the big reasons I loved the Earthworm Jim games so much as a kid was because of the wonderful cartoony sprite animation. So much detail in those things, it's nice to see again.
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Old 05-30-2010, 02:19 AM
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This was one of my favorite details - not only would Jim do things while waiting for you to press the buttons, you never knew what exactly he would do. The only idle easter egg I like better, off the top of my head, is Mario's mumbling in his sleep in Mario 64.
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Old 05-30-2010, 03:38 AM
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Man, Earthworm Jim really was a pretty great game. Also: a pretty, great game.

Also, thought from left field: who remembers the cartoon?
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Old 05-30-2010, 06:45 AM
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Also, thought from left field: who remembers the cartoon?
Me!

"What relationship?"
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Old 05-30-2010, 08:30 AM
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Also, thought from left field: who remembers the cartoon?
I only saw an episode or two, I seem to remember that it was at the same time as something else I always had to do.

I think I still have the poster for the game somewhere. I really did love it, although I never have made it to the queen without passwords. I beat the second one though!
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Old 05-30-2010, 09:09 AM
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Also, thought from left field: who remembers the cartoon?
Dan Castellaneta was the perfect choice for Jim.
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Old 05-30-2010, 01:30 PM
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Also, thought from left field: who remembers the cartoon?
Watched it all the time. Thanks for putting the theme song back in my head, dammit. Earthworm Jim! Through the soil he did crawl!
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Old 05-30-2010, 05:16 PM
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I watched the cartoon pretty religiously as a kid; the one thing that always sticks out in my mind about it is how Peter Puppy would recite the Litany of Fear from Dune to prevent himself from Hulking Out.
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Old 05-30-2010, 05:30 PM
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Watched it all the time. Thanks for putting the theme song back in my head, dammit. Earthworm Jim! Through the soil he did crawl!
Oh man, now it's in my head too. Craaaaap.
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  #13  
Old 05-30-2010, 05:44 PM
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Its depressing that every port of Earthworm Jim (starting with the Gameboy Advance and beyond) seems to rely on using as few frames of those animations as possible. Its a damn shame because I'd love to see both Jim games remade with detail on par with something like Bowser's Inside Story.

Last edited by Donny; 05-30-2010 at 07:23 PM.
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  #14  
Old 06-10-2010, 08:08 AM
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Following Earthworm Jim, I could naturally move on to EWJ2...and I intend to, eventually. But for now, let's go back in time and look at Disney's Aladdin for the Sega Genesis, developed at Virgin Games by the core group who would go on to form Shiny: Dave Perry, Andy Astor, Steve Crow, Tommy Tallarico, et al. (minus heart-and-soul Doug TenNapel). Aladdin debuted the aforementioned "Digicel" technique that would go on to define Jim's aesthetic, but it only made sense for a game based on an animated film. A relative of pre-rendered CG that still upheld the beauty of 2D, Digicel apparently amounted to sprites literally drawn by hand with the help of animators at Disney, which were then transmuted into digital form using a computer machine. (And if that doesn't sound terribly fancy given your scanners and tablets, remember this was 1993.)

The results were graphics that were not only large and lush but recognizable as a cartoon. Specifically, (aside from a couple of phoned-in levels toward the end) this game looks like Aladdin, with all the stretching and squashing and comic mischief that implies. In retrospect, the people who made this were a perfect fit to give life to Jim.




































Last edited by Kishi; 08-02-2011 at 11:14 PM.
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  #15  
Old 06-10-2010, 08:09 AM
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Now, when I mentioned Disney's Aladdin, I had to specify it was for the Sega Genesis—because, as children of the 16-bit era will remember, there's a game by the same title for the SNES that's completely different and wasn't developed by Virgin but Capcom. That's the same Capcom of a long list of beloved Disney-licensed games, and Aladdin is one of their best. Now, for a long time (up till recently enough that you could find posts to this effect here on Talking Time), I scorned the SNES game because it wasn't wrought in Digicel and "the sprites look like sprites." In my mind, Aladdin versus Aladdin was the same match-up as Mickey Mania versus Capcom's Magical Quest, where you had authentic-looking cel-based visuals compared to compromised, off-model sprites resembling touched-up NES fare. But that comparison was extended to Aladdin based on some pretty flimsy impressions of the SNES game, and when I recently took a closer look, I realized that what the resemblance to the film lacks in specific frames, it gains in Aladdin's actual actions: as Brickroad so eloquently explains, Aladdin is a thief, an acrobat, and Capcom wonderfully translated that into his abilities—swinging around, vaulting off enemies' heads, and automatically scaling ledges—instead of just sticking a sword in his hand.

Aladdin's SNES sprites are smaller, but only to accommodate the more involved platforming. If you want to talk animation, his run cycle has twelve frames to the Genesis version's ten. The game already has the advantage of the SNES's expansive color palette, but moreover, since Capcom embraced the fact that they were making a video game and not a feature-length film, they could splurge appropriately on things like shading. If they didn't make a convincing facsimile of mostly flat-shaded film cels, it was because they could make something that was their own and no less pleasing to the eye.



















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  #16  
Old 06-10-2010, 08:10 AM
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Epilogue

One visual device that Capcom used to emphasize that you're not just progressing through a series of stages based on the film but actually progressing its story is Abu. At the beginning of the game, he scurries along wherever you go; once you get to the Cave of Wonders, he runs ahead and excitedly points down to the giant treasure cache. Once you meet Carpet, he grabs its tassels and flies away. When he grabs the oversize ruby that turns the Cave against you, it's not in a cut scene but depicted in-game. He'll shadow-box to encourage you during the first boss fight and hop excitedly if you move to continue after a Game Over.







My favorite, though, is something that's easy to miss but could only have come from a game developed in Japan. Once you beat the first boss, Abu hops down from his perch and, as a sort of "Yeah, we bad" taunt, throws up a bras d'honneur.






That's great.
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Old 06-10-2010, 08:17 AM
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Does it mean that in the Japanese context, though? I always thought the Japanese gesture was more about showing the strength of that arm. Flexing it, basically. Less of a "fuck you" and more of an "I'm badass!" sort of gesture. No?
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Old 06-10-2010, 09:00 AM
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Yeah, I always thought it was a "Look at me rubbing my mighty bicep! I'm strong" thing. And even when Frog does it in Chrono Trigger, his arm swells up with previously-unseen muscles! I didn't even know it was also an obscene gesture until junior high.
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Old 06-10-2010, 03:14 PM
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omg, Iago on the thunder machine is incredible :O
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  #20  
Old 06-10-2010, 04:52 PM
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Kishi,

Have you ever considered pitching retrospectives like this to 1UP for the retro blogs? Because these are all fantastic and I would love to click on articles centered around your insight and sprite ripping skills and to have the extra resources that sort of back would allow.
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  #21  
Old 06-10-2010, 04:54 PM
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Yesss, this thread.
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Old 06-10-2010, 05:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shawn struck View Post
Kishi,

Have you ever considered pitching retrospectives like this to 1UP for the retro blogs? Because these are all fantastic and I would love to click on articles centered around your insight and sprite ripping skills and to have the extra resources that sort of back would allow.
I second this. I don't post because I rarely have anything to say on them, but your GIF threads are some of my favorite reads on the entire board. This goes doubly for the girlfriend, an artist who just got started doing sprites for DS recently and finds this extremely informative.
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Old 06-10-2010, 05:41 PM
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Man, I was just thinking that this should be a feature somehow.
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Old 06-15-2010, 12:58 AM
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Having never played the Genesis Aladdin all I knew was that he had a sword (which always struck me as out of place) and that it was pretty well-regarded. The sprites are pretty impressive, now that I get a good look at them, and it's clear how much more 'gamey' the Capcom SNES ones are. The thunder machine, especially, is fantastic!

Perhaps I should track the Genesis game down and it a shot... I suppose games with this sort of licensing concerns are pipe dreams when it comes to Virtual Counsel, huh?
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Old 06-15-2010, 04:38 PM
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I love me some SNES Aladdin! I always felt that the the game matched perfectly with the movie. The music, animation, levels, etc. It all seemed so... so.. Aladdinesque.

The sounds effects are great too, I love Aladdin's grunt for some reason. You forgot the gifs of the Genie when you're in the lamp and he's building the level in front of you! =P
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Old 06-15-2010, 07:40 PM
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The Genesis Aladdin was wicked hard and played much like a prototype Earthworm Jim (except you get apples instead of a gun and a sword instead of... yourself.) I seem to remember both of these games as being full of glitches, particularly in terms of scrolling the screen and triggering events that require to to scroll to a certain spot.

Capcom's Aladdin on the other hand was smooth and technically flawless, but disappointingly easy. My friends scorned it as the obviously less-masculine of the two games (being that we were ten at the time) but I still prefer it because as this thread has demonstrated, Capcom had the good sense to not stitch Aladdin's pant legs together.

The Genie's Lamp level is way cooler in the Genesis version though.
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Old 06-15-2010, 09:54 PM
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SNES Aladdin is one of the few games I can think of where I can spot specific frames of animation and use them as gameplay tools. The "swingin' back and forth" animation has a lot of play to it as far as which direction you can jump in and how much height you'll gain. You have to really master this if you want to collect all of the game's red gems. (It feels similar to playing with the grappling arm in Bionic Commando.)

I've always felt the game itself is exactly the right difficulty. There's a learning curve to pulling off Aladdin's acrobatics, but once you're fairly adept at them the game is pretty breezy. Really, who wants to play a hard game about a Disney movie? I certainly didn't, and that's why I've never cared much for the Genesis version.

Abu has a lot of life to him for such a little guy. If Kishi hasn't gone back and supplied us with a .gif of Abu snarfing down an apple by the time I get home from work I just might have to bring it myself.
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  #28  
Old 06-16-2010, 10:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by shawn struck View Post
Kishi,

Have you ever considered pitching retrospectives like this to 1UP for the retro blogs? Because these are all fantastic and I would love to click on articles centered around your insight and sprite ripping skills and to have the extra resources that sort of back would allow.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ASandoval View Post
I second this. I don't post because I rarely have anything to say on them, but your GIF threads are some of my favorite reads on the entire board. This goes doubly for the girlfriend, an artist who just got started doing sprites for DS recently and finds this extremely informative.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Excitemike View Post
Man, I was just thinking that this should be a feature somehow.
I think presenting assets ripped directly from games with animations recreated precisely as they appear in-game would seem...if not actually illegal, then at least kind of sketchy. For a professional site, anyway. Just between you and me, though, there might be something like this in the works for something closer to home.

Moreover, thanks for your interest and comments of kindness. Without them, I just get paranoid that I'm gushing about stuff no one else cares about. You keep the gif-train a-rollin'.


Quote:
Originally Posted by StrawberryChrist View Post
The Genie's Lamp level is way cooler in the Genesis version though.
I agree, at least in terms of appearance. The SNES stage doesn't really resemble anything from the movie, whereas the Genesis stage turns "Friend Like Me" into a location.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Falselogic View Post
You forgot the gifs of the Genie when you're in the lamp and he's building the level in front of you! =P
Unfortunately, Genie moves around and changes shape too much for me to get a handle on how his frames relate to one another. It's just one of those things that comes up sometimes.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Brickroad View Post
Abu has a lot of life to him for such a little guy. If Kishi hasn't gone back and supplied us with a .gif of Abu snarfing down an apple by the time I get home from work I just might have to bring it myself.
That, however, I can do.

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  #29  
Old 06-16-2010, 11:00 AM
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That Aladdin run animation might be the best run animation ever. And those idle animations! So good.
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Old 06-16-2010, 09:09 PM
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Quote:
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It's like... where is he getting all those apples from?

It's not Aladdin's inventory. I checked. (Although that would be hilarious.)
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