The top tier quality of Bubsy 3D is already pretty well known, but it is truly amazing to consider that it managed to stand out in a crowded pack in 1996, with other titles like Super Mario 64 and Crash Bandicoot also releasing. For this reason, it is worth revisiting what elements made Bubsy 3D work and helped to make it one of the greatest achievements in the history of video games.
Prior to Bubsy 3D, hearing an actual human voiceover in a video game was a rare occurrence. If it did happen, these voiceover bits were usually quite brief or extremely pixilated in audio clarity. The early 90s Mortal Kombat arcade games as well as the opening line of Super Metroid are good examples of this. However, Bubsy 3D took what was a novelty and made it a core element of the game.
The developers were so proud of this achievement that the creative decision was made to have Bubsy repeat his lines of dialogue constantly throughout the game. Whenever the player fell, grabbed a key item, took damage or did anything else, Bubsy would shout out one of his comedic one-liners. The studio even took one extra step, realizing that comedy is subjective, and allowed players to turn off Bubsy's commentary in the settings menu. While a nice option, it is a mystery why any player would want to mute Bubsy's nonstop talking.
Another aspect of Bubsy 3D's design that made it stand out was its intriguing control setup. Super Mario 64 had already been released and was designed around showing off the N64's analog stick, resulting in seamless three-dimensional movement. This grabbed the attention of many, and Bubsy 3D also made waves for its own take on how to control a character in a 3D environment.
Not wanting to copy Nintendo or mimic what the mainstream were doing, the developers opted for a more left field approach. Unexpectedly borrowing from survival horror games like Resident Evil, Bubsy 3D uses a tank control setup, something which has never been utilized in a platforming game since.
This is a shame, as this control layout brought a whole new level of immersion to the experience. It actually made the game even more challenging, encouraging players to really come to grips with the bizarre physics and logic of Bubsy's movement. This pre-dated the punishing and intentional difficulty of the Dark Souls franchise years in advance, making Bubsy 3D a revolution from this perspective as well.
Last but not least was Bubsy 3D's avant garde graphical style. Moving from 2D to 3D was an exciting time for gaming, as hardware was becoming more powerful, allowing for even more detailed textures and environments. On the PlayStation alone, games like PaRappa the Rapper and Tomb Raider had already pushed polygons and infused their games with tons of color and style.
Once again, in a genius effort to stand out on its own, Bubsy 3D went for in a completely different direction. Rather than going for visual realism or focusing on a unique art style, Bubsy 3D is a game world made up of nothing but polygons, squares and basic color schemes. This is the beauty of it, however, whereby crafting a world of abstract surrealism, the player is encouraged to interpret these surroundings and fill in the blanks with their imaginations. For all these reasons and more, it is important to remember Bubsy 3D is an undisputed masterpiece for the ages.
It's also important to remember to have a Happy April Fools Day!
Bubsy 3D is available on PlayStation.