When I was just a kid, I mostly played my games on my Nintendo consoles, such as the Game Boy Advance and the GameCube. Yes, I was really into Nintendo products and while I still am, I always love to check out other platforms as well. But despite that I had a Playstation 1 (and it was even my first console), I first got introduced to Rayman on a PC by a friend of mine and I remember how amazed I was. So amazed, that I got the Game Boy Advance port instead of the Playstation-version. Looking back, I was a bit of a dumb kid, but the GBA-version was still an alright port and at least made me interested to know more about Rayman.
From his first step, despite having no legs
Rayman is an interesting character, mostly because he has no arms or legs. This was because the artist had trouble making rendering limbs when they were in motion and since Rayman’s world is a dream-world, why not make all the characters limbless?
Back in the 90s, creating a platforming mascot was hard due to how many there were at the time. Even harder, was that the first game was originally going to be released for the SNES which had, of course, a bunch of them. However, it got canceled and was instead made for the Atari Jaguar of all things, and then ported to the Playstation 1 and PC. With the CD-technology, they could get much more out of its soundtrack and visuals, and if you ever compare the Jaguar-version with the PS1-version, you will see just by how much. After its release, it got plenty of re-releases for PC and some even for GBA, DSi, PSN and Mobile-devices, making the character easier to notice and stand alongside other well-known mascots, such as Sonic or Abe from Oddworld.
With a world that is based on dreams and the very concept of imagination, they had much more freedom with each installment, which is best showcased in the second game. There it took a more darker and grim approach, and even a whole new dimension after tinkering with Tonic Trouble. It was again; a success and it also had a bunch of ports that I won’t go into detail on again (there is review of all the main Rayman-games that hopefully: will be a good read for all of you).
After this, it seemed like they had no real idea what to do with Rayman however. After Rayman 2, we had a bunch of side-games for mobile, such as Rayman Golf, and even Rayman Rush and Arena were met with mediocre to poor reviews. Rayman 3 was however not bad, but definitely a departure that experimented a lot. The handheld-games fared somewhat better, being more in tone with the first entry, before the raid of the Raving Rabbids came. With the popularity of the Wii and the more family-friendly oriented games, it was somewhat a good move to make the Raving Rabbids-games more minigame-heavy with fun party-elements. It even got a collectathon-game which I have fond memories of, but will have to give a review before I can properly say if it was good or not.
Rayman fell a bit into the shadows, with re-releases of Rayman 1 for handhelds and pretty poor re-releases of Rayman 2 for systems such as the DS. After 8 years since Rayman 3, we finally got the fantastic Rayman Origin, Rayman Legends and even some Rayman-running games for mobile-devices that all come highly recommended. Seriously, go and play them. I made a review for Origins and Legends, so read them if you want more in depth info on why you might enjoy them, then play them, then come back and finish reading this. Thank you!
What made him memorable?
I think the ability to change, but at the same time focus on what can make platforming enjoyable, is what made the Rayman-series great. With platforming being a main focus, it is easier to find out what you can do to make them interesting and fun, especially in a world that drives on imagination. Rayman 1, 2, Origins, and Legends stand as classics in my eyes because of this, and with our hero being goodhearted and his colors complementing each other (his yellow hair complements his purple torso), made him memorable and due to his limbless body: unique. The worlds are also varied and eye catching, since it is all part of a dreamworld. From Rayman’s more playful tone, Rayman 2’s more grim, and onwards to the more silly approach of Rayman Origin and Legends, all had some form of imagination and creativity to them.
What made him fall apart?
Unfortunately: it was after Rayman 2 when things went downhill, with the plenty of side-games and the good-but-certainly-not-nearly-as-good: Rayman 3. Giving the Rabbids more attention due to their popularity and party-games in general, showed also that Rayman needed a break, so it was a good move on Ubisoft to let him take a rest. After the break, he came back better than ever in my opinion. But the different art-style, was also harder to swallow these days, which might be the reason why Origins and Legends did not sell well. Video Games are unfortunately a business where creativity and quality, doesn’t necessarily mean good sales-numbers. Just look at how well Assassin’s Creed and all post Call of Duty 4-games sold.
Rayman Origins and Legends failed to meet sales expectations, but at the least Legends is still selling from time to time and contributing to the company. I am unsure how the next Rayman will be and if he will stay with the 2D-approach, if it will become a mobile-franchise going forward or maybe experiment once again. I do wish especially the later entries got more love, just like the first 2 did, but if these 5 games are the main Rayman-games we will get, I applaud Michel Ancel for his work and patiently wait for Beyond Good and Evil 2 and any other projects he will be tackling.