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The Platform is the Playstyle

I’ve now tried two console adaptations of 2.5D brawlers that were originally on the 3DS: Senran Kagura Burst Re:Newal, a PS4/PC remake of 3DS title Senran Kagura Burst, and Code of Princess EX, an enhanced Switch port of 3DS title Code of Princess. Despite being from different developers, some commonalities immediately stand out that seem likely to be due to their shared origins.

  1. Levels, particularly early ones, are very short - the first ones are on the order of a minute or two.
  2. Longevity is provided through level grinding and recombining existing content (clear every level with every character!).

This sort of setup makes sense for a handheld that might be unable to hold large or complex levels in memory, might not have storage for lot of unique content, and might be played for just a few minutes at a time on a train or whatever. It makes less sense on a more-powerful home console where the player is more likely to be looking for an experience to sink their teeth into. The first time I tried Code of Princess EX, I actually put it down and played something else because I was tired of navigating menus every couple of minutes just to get into the next level.

It’s easy to forget how much the platform on which a game is released can change the design constraints and best practices for that game. (Like a game design subset of “the medium is the message”.) This is why it’s particularly interesting that PC and consoles have been becoming more similar for years, and now the Switch is bridging the gap to handhelds - while there are many upsides, we should also expect this to reduce the variety of game experiences on offer.