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I tend to build games with strong stories, which usually involves quite an indepth world environment. Typically I develope typical 2.5 over head view JRPG style (think Zelda, Final Fantasy 3, etc) because I have it stuck in my head that you can only achieve world depth using this style.

This question is limited to the 2D environment. Can this be achieved in a 2D side scroller? Can a user experience the world when only seeing it from the side? Can he/she explore villages in this manner? Any examples would be great.

The closest thing that comes to my mind at the moment is Castle Crashers.

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Yes. There were a few games, many years ago, that used a 2D side scroller viewpoint, which were very immersive and highly explorable:

  1. Colorado / Starblade (same engine, action / adventure)
  2. Drakkhen (action / adventure)
  3. Sapiens (action / adventure)
  4. Stronghold (a strategy RPG)

You can find videos for all of these on youtube.

These all allowed movement "in" and "out" ("north" and "south") of the screen as well as left and right ("east"/"west"), between screens -- enabling a non-linear world.

The main limitation for the sidescroller is the restriction in vertical space. This was overcome in games like Golden Axe and D&D: Shadows Over Mystara by giving the characters some vertical movement room without changing the perspective too much -- this makes combat more interesting, and you can evade enemies and go past them into other locations.

Sapiens was a particularly innovative approach to game design considering how old it is. One aspect was that you could see your x, y position on a map, although each location was a side-scroller view. Stronghold does much the same.

Stronghold is a particularly interesting/unique game in that it used a primitive vector based approach to show vistas of the world behind the current location, however the perspective is much the same as a platform game.

Finally, I'd say that in some ways, there's even more potential to achieve greater world depth in sidescrollers than in top-down or isometric views because, like FPSes, this is a natural view for a human being to see other creatures, and their world from -- eyes level to the horizon. So it can actually be quite evocative as a result.

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There was also at least one really early Zelda installment that used a mixed overhead map with a side-scrolling view for dungeon type areas. I forget which one now though, hence no link. I think it was SNES era though. Edit: It was Zelda II for NES: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… –  Matthew Scharley Aug 23 '11 at 11:39
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Castlevania anyone? –  Lohoris Aug 23 '11 at 13:25
    
The Y's games were side scrolling in towns and dungeons and such (I do not remember much overworld though so I am not sure about that). Same with that second zelda no one much likes to mention, all except the over world was done in a side scrolling. –  James Aug 23 '11 at 17:47
    
I loved Eternal Daughter ^^ –  Jonathan Connell Aug 23 '11 at 18:50
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There were a number of oldschool (snes/genesis) console side scrollers that had two play layers that you could transition between to help with the illusion of depth. –  Patrick Hughes Aug 23 '11 at 21:51

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