I have particularly found the Crash Bandicoot series to be interesting, because it’s off in its own world - very much 3D interpretation of 2D mechanics, just scrolling into the screen instead of to the side. Interesting also to see that a new one is coming out this year!
As for Japanese games, there’s a bunch of odd stuff out there to consider:
floating runner. This game is kind of a mess but it’s interesting to look at since it really feels like it evolved out of the early PC scene. fixed camera, high difficulty, big demands on the player, not so many tools in your arsenal.
Sonic Jam. The 3D in here isn’t quite a prototype for Sonic Adventure, but almost is? It’s Sega’s first half-attempt at a 3D platformer, taking the 2D elements of Sonic, like the bounce pads and whatnot, and bringing them into 3D. Other saturn games like Ninpen Manmaru took a similar-ish approach.
the sonic adventure games are interesting for their use of the homing attack and Sonic’s ability to hop small gaps and grab ledges and stuff, which obviously evolved over time. Sonic has some parkour-style stuff going on as it evolves so might be good to look at?
PS2 era in general has a lot to look at in terms of where japan evolved the platforming genre. Ghost in the Shell Stand Alone Complex is one, with very interesting motion (two kinds of jump), though it’s easy to get stuck in there, in my opinion.
Ico and SOTC sort of show that the mechanics of the platforming were becoming less important to some devs than the motion or the look of it.
nightshade and chain diver are interesting to look at when it comes to air combos, as is bujingai with its wall running and the like.
- games like Bayonetta and Nier are maybe the closest analog, but they tend to focus on staying in the air more than working to get up platforms.
Overall I think maybe a good framing for this stuff is “youth-oriented” vs “adult-oriented” platforming. In the west, youth-oriented platforming is pretty firmly in the Ratchet or Spyro camp - lots of horizontal space, floaty jumps, projectile attacks, and cute graphics.
Adult-oriented western platformers, like assassin’s creed, mirror’s edge, uncharted, etc, do tend toward parkour, and that seems to be the trend - and contrary to being oriented toward adults, some of these won’t even let you jump in the wrong direction half the time because they’re so focused on making sure your hands and feet are in the right places.
In Japan on the other hand, you’ve got youth-oriented platformers like Mario and Sonic - both of these feel a bit more skill-based and points-oriented than their western counterparts. More specific challenges and gimmicks and less of a wide “go anywhere” mentality.
In terms of adult-oriented platformers, it feels like you’d have to stretch to even say there were any. Bayonetta and other platinum games have sort of taken that space on but they’re more about combat than jumping really, and so wind up being more about stringing combos together in the air (look at nightshade and chain diver for prececessors there). There’s Ninja Gaiden, kind of… but unless I’m missing something this area seems sort of empty unless you group some adjacent genres in there.
Interesting to think about! I’ll do more pondering.