Rayman 3 - I Am Speed, Despite A Lack of Limbs
Rayman has to have one of the weirdest histories in all of platformers. For starters, you have the original - a 2D classic, acclaimed by many. Then you’ve got the second and third games, which cashed in on the 3D platformer craze sweeping the gaming worlds at the time. Then… Rabbids happened… and kept happening for a while… before Rayman returned to his 2D roots in Origins and Legends… sadly enough, though, it didn’t sell enough for Rayman to return to being a staple of the current gaming market. I still hope for a sequel to Rayman Legends… But the Rayman, including the Rabbids games, are an entirely different story. Whilst all the games between the original and Origins veered away from Rayman’s initial outing, his handheld adventures far more closely mirrored the original. Rayman 1 received a direct port for the GBA, aptly entitled Rayman Advance (which I will -not- play because I love myself too much), whilst Rayman 2 received a GBC demake that actually is a pretty good showcase of what the GBC could do.
And then we come to Rayman 3. Rayman 3 is a weird one; it’s called Rayman 3, despite the fact that it’s ostensibly a prequel to the actual Rayman 3, Hoodlum Havoc, covering almost none of the content actually in its original version. As it is, it’s genuinely the most faithful follow up to the original Rayman, more so than any of its sequels up until Origins. It’s a 2D platformer thorough and through, full of collectibles and generally having that odd, sureliest design of the original mixed with the slightly edgier, darkness inspired from the second and third games. It’s really the best of both worlds from the three mainline Rayman games, as someone who loves the original and is just kinda ‘eh’ on the other two. I didn’t know what to expect from Ubisoft’s handheld adaptation of Rayman 3 - much as I didn’t know what to expect from my previous forays with Ubisoft's creations on the GBA - but I was genuinely caught off guard by Rayman 3’s genuine sense of quality.
There is almost no story to speak of in Rayman 3, literally coming down to Globox - off screen - eating a Dark Lum like the fool he is, running off and having Rayman navigate a number of worlds and levels to track him down. Rayman’s journey will take him across four themed worlds that really just exist to throw you into a variety of platforming adventures. Interestingly enough, this game has a sort of ‘hub world’ system where you wander around one world-specific level to access each of the actual levels you’ll be playing through, giving a sense of slightly confusing continuity to the levels you’ll be playing through. That’s fine, it doesn’t matter, because what we’re here is for that sweet, sweet platforming action. And what can I say - as a platformer, Rayman 3 is superb. I expected something… fine, I guess. Something a little worse than Rayman 1’s minute-to-minute platforming, but nothing too bad. But honestly, of all the ‘old-school’ Rayman games, Rayman 3 for the GBA actually might be my favorite. It’s not quite as beautiful as the original PS1 game, or as long, but for a 2D platformer on the GBA, it has so many more hits than misses.
The gameplay itself is a slightly stripped down version of your normal Rayman gameplay - you’ll start with basic jumping and climbing, slowly building out a repository of moves as you complete each successive world - punching, wall-climbing, stuff like that. As compared to other platformers of the time, the real appeal of Rayman 3 is the sheer amount of mechanics the game will throw at you and expect you to pull off flawlessly. Jumping between cliffs, leaping off to glide between spikes before hitting a grappling point, leading you to land on a slimy surface that will send you moving at high speed towards your next set of obstacles. Yeah. if you didn’t gather from that… wacky set of instructions, Rayman 3 expects a lot out of the player, but And whilst combat is a part of Rayman 3, it never really feels like a focus; there’s a handful of enemies to punch the living crap out with a good wound up right hook, but honestly I found myself utilizing Rayman’s melee prowess for such herculean feats as busting open doors or hitting switches, and honestly, I kinda prefer it that way. I’m here for platforming, not punching.
There’s also a handful of mini-games you’ll be required to partake in to complete each of the worlds, though these are far and few between and not particularly intrusive… thought the second kart-racing level in the lava world did briefly drive me insane for losing with less then a second to go because I got bounced by that big ass ball into the lava. Lovely. But yeah, they don’t add a whole lot to the game, but they very thankfully don’t overstay their welcome. Except… for that damn lava race.
I really appreciated how each of the worlds build upon previous ones whilst still having a unique identity of their own. The first world is a pretty straightforward platforming adventure, whilst the second has a bit more combat going on. The third introduces aerial platforming, and both the third and fourth have a focus on high speed platforming with a handful of super intricate combinations of everything you’ve learnt so far. It’s a great way to build up the complexity of a platformer, but I gotta say, I really liked the speedy focus on the last two worlds. I did die a bunch on these levels, but the sense of momentum and excitement as you zip from obstacle to obstacle with only moments to work out what the game is asking you to do. It’s weird that I’m into this, but not Sonic. Why don’t I like Sonic, anyway?
Additionally the game follows Rayman tradition in having a collect-a-thon focus, with fifty caged creatures to rescue and 999 golden lums to collect. As far as I could tell, you had to collect the cages to progress from world to world, though I was never walled by this as I seemed to have collected enough from each world. Collecting all the lums in each world will unlock bonus levels that seem to push the difficulty to the limit, but I didn’t really have the patience to find all of the lums, though I made a decent dent through the game’s completion categories, ultimately finding 40 cages and 810 lums. Most of the cages aren’t too hard to find either, and they give you enough of an audio cue that you’ll do fine in seeking them out. Certainly a fun way for the completionists looking for a way to ecke more time out of this fun little game. Considering how many GBA games I finish though, ah, I don’t have time for that, but maybe one day!
Where the game falters slightly is in its difficulty; I won’t mince words, Rayman 3 is a challenging game. Not challenging in the nigh-on impossible late game challenges of the original, but Rayman 3 for the GBA expects a lot of the player. And whilst it is very tough at times, for the most part I feel there was enough leeway to avoid stopping your forward momentum in its tracks. For one, and most thankfully, getting a game over only kicks you back to the start of the particular stage you're on, not to the start of the entire set of stages that make up each level. There’s still one or two levels that did begin the long, arduous process of driving me up the wall, but having such a small ‘run-back’, so to speak, helps a lot with not dropping the game out of sheer frustration. I think the main way they could’ve tuned the difficulty, as with a lot of 2D platormers on the GBA, if they zoomed out the screen just a little bit. In some of the harder stages, more than a few deaths came from just not being able to see what was coming up. Another problem that rarely popped up was a handful of platforming obstacles that were -just- spaced out enough that it felt like I had to have beyond perfect timing to actually land them, but these were far from the norm.
The boss fights also felt like a significant downgrade from the rest of the game’s content, usually consisting of one or two rather normal mechanics looped over and over again until you win. They aren’t bad, per say, just… really bland, and have none of the exciting momentum present in the main platforming stages. Thankfully they’re all relatively quick - sans the last one, which is a slog because if you get hit by anything, it’s over in one shot. Kinda… not fun. Yeah. I’ve found this to be a pretty common problem in 2D platformers, sadly - they just usually aren’t set up for decent boss fights, unless combat is already a notable part of the game, and Rayman never really feels too heavy on the combat, as I’ve said earlier.
And whilst it’s music isn’t much to speak of, generally having a lot of low-key, vaguely level-appropriate tunes, this was barely an issue because Rayman 3 looks simply fantastic for a GBA game, and especially for a mid-era GBA game, coming out in 2003. It’s rich, diverse color palette echoes the original wonderfully, and each world has a distinct theme that sets them apart. Rayman himself is wonderfully animated, having a lot of character put into his idle animations, especially the Game Over screen - which, when it came to a few of the later levels, I saw far, far too many times. The minigames adopted a 3D style as opposed to the main game, and whilst it doesn’t hold up as well as the normal 2D stuff, it’s still pretty impressive for the time. For what it was, the GBA was a bit of an underpowered machine, and whilst there were games like Gunstar Super Heroes that pulled out every bit of power the GBA had, games like Rayman 3 are a great example of the kind of visuals even a mid-era GBA game could do.
What can I say? Rayman 3 was a genuine surprise. I mean, I’d say the fact it was made by Ubisoft was an example of its quality, but I did play Planet of the Apes a few weeks ago. Now that I actually think about it, Planet of the Apes, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire made this weird semi-Ubisoft trilogy on the Game Boy Abyss! My god, it’s the first story arc! Uh, anyway, Rayman 3 is far better than any expectation I had. It’s a solid platformer in its own right, but it also stands as a beautiful example of the GBA’s visuals, and as the first true follow up to the original Rayman. It has its snags, and expects a lot of the player in the difficulty department, but Rayman 3 is without a doubt worth a play for you platformer fans out there - in fact, I’d argue it’s amongst the best I’ve played on the GBA so far.
Thank you so much for reading my review of Rayman 3 for the Game Boy Advance! It’s been good getting back into the groove of things, and I think planning out these games in advance has helped a lot. Next week I’ll be taking a look at the infamous Dragon Ball Z: Legacy of Goku, but I’ve also been slowly working on games I’ll be featuring in the near and distant future. So, uh, look forward to that! As always, you can find me over at Twitter (at least until that website implodes) @Lemmy7003, or you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any requests or questions. Thanks again for reading, and I’ll see you next week!