I Will Always Love Where A Good 2D Background Takes My Imagination

Like a lot of things, it started with Street Fighter II. I was a kid, not nearly as good at the game as my extremely competitive uncles who would gather around arcades when arcades were still common. It would take a while before my little hands could pull off a hadouken every time, but I kept coming back no matter how poorly I did, because of everything going on behind the fight. The uniformed spectators cheering in front of an aeroplane on Guile’s stage, the villagers in Blanka’s — they felt vivid and alive, places I wanted to keep coming back to, even if all I could do was fight.

Ever since then, I’ve retained a subconscious appreciation for a well-done 2D background, any simple little animation that really doesn’t do much but possesses that — ahem — je ne sais quois that somehow feels alive, despite its simplicity. Indivisible does this for me.

Given that we’re in the middle of a heavy release season, I’ve not been able to spend a whole lot of time with this clever-looking game (I’ve seen just enough to understand why Kotaku’s own Mike Fahey found himself completely sucked in) but I was immediately struck by how gorgeously animated the game was and how beautiful its backgrounds were.

Indivisible begins in the village home of Ajna, its protagonist. Its early moments briefly acquaint you with the village as it teaches you how to move around, and as Ajna goes to meet her father for some sparring lessons, you’re treated to a background of mostly static villagers in the middle of their daily routine. Leap, and your shadow is cast over them, giving the world a feeling of depth. I immediately stopped to admire it. Then I peeped this trailer and saw there were loads more interesting spaces like that — a city, a pool, a pirate ship? Awesome.

One of my favourite things about art in any medium is seeing what creators do with limitations. A good 2D background speaks to me in a way that a 3D one on a 2D plane doesn’t (the sort you might find in a game like Trine 4: The Nightmare Prince). It’s meant to imply a depth, as succinctly as possible. Actually showing that depth is cool, but then you wonder, why can’t I go there? I like when a game makes me wonder, but 2D games present better questions.

A good 2D background makes the world feel bigger. Early video games left so much room for me to fill in the blanks — a necessary feeling, given the medium’s limitations. As games get more intricate and detailed, I appreciate how much more they have to offer, but I still look for the corners wherein games do less, where there’s just enough to elegantly hint at something larger and let me fill out that third dimension myself.


Comments

    If you're even remotely interested in pixelart wallpapers, Mark Ferrari's stuff is must-see.

    Just google image searching Mark Ferrari Pixel Art is a recipe for a good time. The guy knows grandeur and mystery. Similarly, twitter pixel artist @waneela_ is the master of the more intimate vignette.

    I don't usually care about the games that use this kind of art, especially platformers, but god damn do I love the art itself.

      Whoever does the pixel art for Jon Tron’s YouTube channel is extremely talented too. Absolutely gorgeous slightly above 16 bit graphics in quality.

    I felt exactly the same way when I fired up my SNES mini recently and played street fighter 2. The backgrounds are simple, the animations simple but they are vivid and alive in a way that many fighting games neglect.

    Still to this day I love the older style fighting games 2d pixel art backgrounds. Even the transitions in say Capcom vs Snk and then the backgrounds in sf3, sf alpha and sf2.

    Check these out.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpHD8l6Z-Nw

      Agreed. The 3d backgrounds in MVC2 were great. But I feel it went down hill from there.
      I much prefer pixel art on the fighters rather than this kinda ugly pseudo 3D thing that games like MVC:Infinte have.
      That game is ugly as sin. Same with MVC3.
      Bring back Marvel Superheroes or xmen vs sf. Never gonna happen but I can dream.

        I will add that it sucks you can’t buy these digitally.
        - xmen vs sf
        - xmen children of the atom
        - mvc 2
        -darkstalkers
        Licensing stuff obviously is at play. But from a consumer stand point, that isn’t my problem.

          Capcom did a good job with sf: 30th anniversary collection.
          I have the darkstalkers collection on ps3 (Japan release)
          But all the pixel art ones with marvel characters have been lost for years.
          I would pay for these in a heartbeat.
          But again, licensing shit hurts consumers

          This is to true. A Capcom/Snk Dreamcast anniversary pack would make my day! Or even just putting the games on Psn, Xbl or Steam would be great. There is hope as far as licensing considering arcade1up has recently gotten a licence.

          https://arcade1up.com/products/marvel-cabinet

            Omg I just looked at that link!!!!!
            My brain almost exploded! That is something I’d kill for....

        MVC:Infinite is pretty ugly. They at least improved it a bit since the original announcement. Still having bad Chun Li flashbacks. I didn't mind Mvc3. The days of future past background is great. But nowhere near the 2d pixel art.

      The transitions and on-screen presentation of Street Fighter Alpha 3 have never been matched by any other fighting game ever.

      Maybe CVS1 comes close, though.

        sfa3 will always have a place in my heart. I thrashed that game back in the day.

        Agreed. The presentation, amount of content, and generally obscenely great art style. It wins.
        SF3 Third Strike was also an incredibly polished game.

    Some 2d art I still remember as being amazing for the backgrounds was that old game ‘Another World’ or its sequel.
    The rainforest backgrounds were so beautiful.

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