Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Thought to Chew: Fixed Camera Angles and the Triumph of Pokemon Black/White

Let's keep the coal churning!
A while back I made a joke about how I wanted to make an article about fixed camera angles in Pokemon Black/White.
Yeah, I wasn't really joking. I just needed a cheap segue.
The thing is, I love things that don't matter that games throw in just for the sake of it.
This is the very definition of that thing.
Camera angles were a thing that didn't exist in Pokemon before Black and White. Pokemon games have always been played from the same bird's eye perspective. It's not that it's a bad design choice. In fact, it's quite the opposite- it's probably the most effective way of getting the best view of the Pokemon game world, a theory further proved by Lumiose City's disorientingly awful camera angle choices.

It's just that this tiny, meaningless change really caught my eye. I remember the first instance of a change in the camera angle, which was overlooking Skyarrow Bridge about a fifth of the way through the game. It's simple, a way to give significance to a tiny instant and make the Pokemon universe feel more massive, your adventure more meaningful, and your progress more explicit.
Then you go across the bridge and the camera studies the prank video style of shooting where there are no rules and it jumps all over the place more than an amputee on a pogo stick. At that point it wasn't really about being insightful moreso than showing off, and while I didn't feel it was as effective, it's still quite stellar.
From that point on, camera angles become elusive beasts, appearing every once in a while, usually with intent. Castelia City and Victory Road, for instance, probably use it best- in the former, stepping back reveals a broad view of the dazzling city while a certain alleyway shoves the camera right in your face to help create the illusion of a cramped, dank (as in cold, you numb-skulled freshmen) place. The latter uses it for a similarly grandiose purpose, to emphasize the sheer scale of the slope of Victory Road- the camera goes more isometric, with the camera following your character, moving in a way as to echo its (the structure's) curves.
Such instances clearly show a lot of thought. If they never existed, nobody would ever complain, and that's truly what I like about these additions. Nobody's ever begged for them, and by adding them regardless we can show that the developers obviously threw in care to their game. That's called being insightful and I freaking love it.
Oh, and one more thing. Pokemon Black and White actually scrapped the idea of a controllable camera which would've allowed you to get every possible angle. Honestly, I think that would be amazing, and I would love to see that integrated into other games, but I do see the challenge in that. It could easily be argued that the fixed camera angles were a direct result from experimenting with the concept, and I certainly hope that the concept is picked up in later installments- could you imagine getting the full 360 without a reliance on Anderson Cooper?
Sorry, my efforts at making topical jokes have failed me once more. Back into the hole it is!

For the last Interview with the magnificent Final Smash!, CLICK HERE.
For the last A Thought to Chew on Entralink, CLICK HERE.
For the last Dear Nintendo on being hip, CLICK HERE.
See you soon.


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