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Obstructive Foreground

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Good thing cellphones made those obsolete.

"Note we are in one of those many games where the devs thought 'Yay, cool, I'll put stuff on the foreground, it looks so pretty!' Okay, listen to me, devs: no, putting things in the foreground that block your view isn't cool, it's stupid. When showing the movie Fantasia, you won't splash a spectator's face in the middle of the screen."
JdG (reviewing the Mega Drive version of Fantasia), Joueur du Grenier

You're walking down the streets of crime. Thugs and hooligans lurk on every corner, ready to ambush you with baseball bats, lead pipes, and broken bottles, but they are no match for your kung fu skillz. Just as long as you make sure not to end up fighting behind a sign, lamp post, or billboard.

A form of Fake Difficulty, an obstructive foreground occurs in a video game when foreground elements make the player character difficult, or sometimes even impossible, to see in a normal manner. Common in older games that did not have 3D camera angles and instead added foreground sprites for aesthetic effect, the presence of these things can be downright annoying when your character seems unable to strike the guy who's 3 feet away from them because a tree that's 30 feet away is in the view of the puppet master's monitor.

Most modern emulators have the ability to remove obstructive foregrounds. Newer games often avert this entirely while retaining foreground elements by fading out the obstruction when they think it's in the way.

Note that in some cases, Obstructive Foreground is done deliberately. Classy implementations of this will allow the player to overcome such obstructions either by minding their own placement, or by watching predictable obstacles before they are obscured and judging their position accordingly. Lesser implementations force a player to fight an enemy that has unpredictable patterns behind an opaque wall which generally devolves to simple Button Mashing.

Sometimes overlaps with Interface Screw. Compare Behind the Black.


  • It is not uncommon in many platformers to be unable to notice secret passages that can be entered by simply walking into the wall. To the character, these openings should be entirely visible directly in front of them.
    • La-Mulana has it in a few locations.
    • So does Gish when trying to get to some secrets.

  • In The Adventures of Lomax, in The Wild West world there are clouds of smoke(?) that act like this, possibly deliberately.

  • One of the many things that made the SNES version of Batman Forever completely awful was the foreground in levels (such as the columns in the bank level from the AVGN run) making it difficult to see what the hell you were doing.
  • Intentionally used in Battle City and Tank Force with tree tiles which makes it harder to see what's underneath them.
  • Level 9 of Battletoads has too many view-obstructing tubes you have to fight enemies around.
  • In the Beavis And Butthead Licensed Game for the Sega Genesis, at one point in the Burger World level, the two titular protagonists are supposed to drop a rat that ate a piece of their tickets to a GWAR concert and some fries into the fryer so they can serve them to a customer and he can throw the piece of the ticket back up (It Makes Just As Much Sense In Context). The trick to getting the rat in the fryer is to select it, then use the C button, instead of selecting the drop option, as the drop option is only for dropping things on the floor. Thus, if you drop the rat on the floor by accident, you won't be able to see where you dropped it, due to the kitchen's foreground obstructing the view of the floor.
  • Some stages of Brutal: Paws of Fury have this, most notably the Screen Room in the Genesis and Sega CD versions; one the middle third of the arena is fully visible, with the fighters being silhouetted behind enormous paper screens on the left and right sides.

  • Not too much of a problem, usually, in Castle Crashers until you get to the final boss which darkens the screen, making the, usually clear, black-tinged rocks completely solid so you cannot see a damn thing when he is near the bottom of the screen.
  • In Commander Keen Episode I, you could walk through pipes but not see through them. They were perfect for hiding Gargs.
  • Cuphead is a throwback to 1930's cartoons with 1980's gameplay, including obstructive foreground elements.

  • One of the many, many problems Daikatana had was the titular sword. When in use, it blocked half the screen, and as it leveled up, it got even more annoying, growing sparks that ran up and down the blade, and then purple neon tubes flickering around it, making the tiny, short enemies in dark places you had to hit with it nearly impossible to see.
  • Demon Skin has the foreground blocking your onscreen character, frustratingly when you're trying to jump over platforms or when battling large number of mooks. From rocks to huge trees, cavern walls, and even passing mooks.
  • Desert Assault have these all over the place. The first stage set in some docks have a crane in the foreground that covers half the screen, while the stage in a ruined city have bombed-out buildings getting in your way of vision. These tends to show up in areas where you're very likely to run into bullets and die.
  • Dragon Quest V: Common in certain maps and locations for the original SNES game, happens in dungeons and cities which had long invisible corridors inside of what would appear to be normal walls (A example would be the Gotha Castle, having a secret door right to the priest), the simple 2D maps will confuse players during their first stay in the area; the Nintendo DS and PS2 versions avert this by having more detailed maps and camera movement.

  • Arguably the best one-handed weapon in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - indeed, arguably the most powerful weapon of any kind in Skyrim - has a unique downside: It's enormous. Equipping it blocks a full third of your vision. Have fun.

  • Averted in Fallout and Fallout 2, which fade any obstructive graphics out in a circle around the player's position.
  • The Mega Drive version of Fantasia makes some use of this in the opening castle level with Forced Perspective and parallax scrolling.

  • The old Namco Run-and-Gun game, Finest Hour, is pretty bad with this. You assume the role of a robot shooting various enemies on a tropical island, and somehow the game sees fit to have your character placed halfway in the background — so every step you take, you'll be obscured by palm trees, rocks, tall grass, wreckage and other obstacles, something that's really not desirable when you're fending off enemies surrounding you from all corners. There's even a stage where you're battling in a bombed out building, and you can only see (and control) your hero by looking through the windows.

  • Golden Axe also gives players hell with this trope. Especially in the duel mode.
  • Happens from time to time in Gothic 2. Sometimes you will be unable to see what's happening in combat because there is a tree or other scenery between the camera and your character.

  • Hammerfight runs into this if you try to fight too close to the top of the screen.
  • Hollow Knight has several forms of this. In addition to the ruins of the setting providing many shadowy lumps and angles to pass your field of view during gameplay, there is also an area where creatures crawl rapidly past the camera. Arguably the most unfortunate example, however, are the ridges of gravel and stone that decorate the walls; they block your view of the actual, physical wall your character can touch, which can be a real problem when it comes to timing wall jumps.
  • Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number likes to hide enemies in bushes; even indoors. The console version allows you to lock on to unseen enemies, but it's disabled on Hard mode. It's always lovely when you are missing one enemy who then shoots you from his hideout, which is especially annoying due to the trial-and-error gameplay.

  • I Wanna Be the Guy has a couple of trees at the beginning of the Cart segment. Thankfully, they're not used to make the game harder.

  • A Jurassic Park game had "doors" (clear areas between bushes) that players could use to get from one screen to another. Doors are identified by a blue arrow on the ground. Problem being, the very first of these arrows (before the player is made aware of their existence) is entirely blocked by a bush in the foreground. Yes, the interface element is blocked by a bush.

  • Sometimes appears in the Katamari Damacy games. While usually there's meant to be a cutaway graphic that surrounds your katamari when you're behind something big, it doesn't always work...

  • In The Legendary Axe, the foreground gets in the way in many of the levels.
  • Defied in Loopmancer. Foreground obstacles like walls, pillars and vehicles will frequently get in the way, but you and enemies are visible onscreen as glowing orange silhouettes.
  • Mario Kart DS and Wii have the Blooper item which squirts ink on opponents' screens, obstructing their view. Since CPU opponents don't have to look at a screen, they will swerve back and forth instead.
    • Oddly, it creates a case of "The Humans Are All Cheating Bastards" due to the touch screen map in the Nintendo DS edition. The human player can remember level structures and traps (besides using the second screen to see weapons and traps from all over the level) while the computer doesn't know better are swerves left and right while slowing down.
      • Not to mention using the map to drive while your view is obstructed, which is so easy to make the ink blocking your view entirely pointless. It makes the computer opponent getting a Blooper a relief, considering the alternative of getting a Lightning bolt, a red shell or (god help you) a blue shell.
  • McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure has a major case of this in the tree area of the first level.
  • Freaking Air Man's stage in Mega Man 2. No, I can defeat Air Man, I just can't defeat the clouds blocking enemies and their attacks around halfway through the stage.
  • Metroid:
    • Played straight in Super Metroid, which contains hidden passages completely obscured by, say, a wall. Most of these passages subvert this trope by vanishing under scrutiny when Samus uses the X-ray visor, while others do not.
    • Subverted in Metroid: Zero Mission, in which hidden passages like the ones seen in Super Metroid turn translucent when Samus walks into them, though you do have to find them yourself first.
  • Mortal Kombat 3 has a temple stage with animated candles in the foreground. They don't block the view, much, but they can be distracting at times.

  • Used in one stage of the second NES Ninja Gaiden, to infuriating effect.
  • The Ninja Warriors Again had this with the foreground on certain areas. The remake of the game downplays this, allowing you to see characters and enemies behind foreground, albeit partially obscured.

  • Low-lying foreground terrain can occasionally obscure items or traps in Odin Sphere, but fortunately enemies are always tall enough to be easily seen.

  • In Pok√©mon Diamond and Pearl, the entrance to a certain cave—the only place you can catch Gible, even though the Pokedex misleadingly indicates that a less-invisible cave nearby would also work—is under a bike bridge, hidden by the top-down viewpoint.

  • Ristar does this in the first level as part of gameplay. The second enemy you encounter is an easily dispatched rabbit enemy. This weak enemy still manages to catch first-time players off-guard enough to forfeit a star, because the rabbit spawns behind a bush. Ristar, from his perspective, should be able to see, but the player certainly can't.
  • Several rooms in River City Girls cover the bottom parts of the screen with obstacles, with the frequency and size of them increasing as the game goes on. The most egregious instance is in the money laundering room in the final area, which has a giant pile of money taking up about 60% of the screen.
  • Rocket Knight Adventures has a clever example in the beginning of the third level. The foreground obstructs your view of certain platforms, but there is a rising and falling pool of reflective lava, which you can use to see your reflection and cross the platforms safely. Just be careful not to fall in the lava, or you'll instantly lose a life.

  • The ZX Spectrum game Saboteur, for its time, had large (though single-color) sprites, but they could still be masked by foreground objects, particularly crates and barrels.
  • Sacred 2 has a fixed top-down camera angle, but fades out tree canopies and ceilings so you can see what you're doing without zooming in.
  • In The Simpsons: Bart's Nightmare, the trees in the foreground of Windy World block your view of anything behind them, whether it be enemies, manholes, or the very pages of Bart's school report you need to complete the game.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog does this with metal girders in the Star Light Zone, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3 does likewise with plant leaves in Angel Island Zone. Sonic the Hedgehog 2, however, is specifically programmed to defy this: there are many leaves in the foreground of Aquatic Ruin Zone, but enemies behind those leaves can't hurt you.
  • In Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Chun Li's stage has a table in the foreground, and it is possible for the player to crouch behind it to partially cover themselves. This strategy was actually used by the high-level Japanese player Nuki during the finals of Evo 2008.
  • Used subtly in Streets of Rage 2 and 3. Although not particularly obstructive, it can cause some problems when you're being clobbered behind a pillar in the subway.
    • In fact, both games use this feature to hide rare items. The first level in the second game had a 1UP right in the start and the first level in the 3rd game had a 1UP and a Gold bar hidden in the start as well. The fight against Sheva in the bad ending path had several health items hidden in the foreground sprites of the crowd.
  • This is one of the suggested uses of the canvas feature of the Super Game Boy, in its accompanying Players Guide.
  • The Forest of Illusion in Super Mario World has several trees blocking your view.
  • Super Smash Bros.:

  • Terranigma abuses Three-Quarters View in Norfest Forest. Not only do the tall trees make enemies difficult to spot, there is also one hidden chest.
  • The final stage of Time Slip. Vines, trees, moss, assorted floral life galore, ensuring you're going to see zilch onscreen half the time.
  • Torchlight has characters and enemies obstructed by 'foreground' very often but shows obstructed portions of all interactive objects as translucent color-coded versions of themselves through the foreground instead of removing it. Unfortunately non-interactive objects with hit boxes (read: obstacles) aren't given this effect so annoying situations still happen occasionally.
  • TowerClimb can have creatures totally obscured by bushes, witches, or whatever else is in the foreground. Seeing as this is a Nintendo Hard action platformer where you're a One-Hit-Point Wonder, this is Fake Difficulty of the highest order.
  • In The Twisted Tales of Spike McFang, the Three-Quarters View graphics allow the player's view of the action to be obscured by large trees and outside pillars.

  • Several dungeons in the Valkyrie Profile series will have obstructions in the foreground that will block your view of chests and things. While the second game always puts a prompt on screen to open a chest, the previous game does no such thing, meaning you can walk right by chests without ever even knowing they're there. Thankfullly, there's an item that causes a floating orb of light to appear near your character when there's unopened treasure chests in the room.

  • Of all games World of Warcraft did fall prone to this with the release of the Firelands raid. Even with the movable camera, one boss in particular (Lord Ryolith) is so huge and massive that it's borderline impossible to target the small adds the ranged have to kill when he is in the way. Oh, and he WILL be in the way, because he aimlessly wanders around his platform and can only be directed in certain limits.
    • Also, in World of Warcraft, partway into the main questline of Jade Forest, the Horde version of the "sniper" quest is particularly annoying because you zoom in on the Jinyu village. Said village is underneath trees with large amounts of hanging vines with large leaves which obstructs the view of the things you're supposed to shoot to save the friendly NPC from the enemies. The Alliance version of this quest does not suffer from this particular annoyance; there are no similar obstructions near the Hozen village.
    • WoW has had this problem since the beginning. In forests you can't see your own character or anything else because of trees; indoors you can't see because the camera ends up behind wall hangings. You'd think after Fallout figured it out 22 years ago, that they could too...

  • Yahwa, an arcade-style beat 'em up (made by an Indie Korean company on a shoestring budget) trying to emulate Streets of Rage, is quite bad about this. Sometimes the onscreen obstruction will censor more than three-quarters of the screen for several seconds, making it literally impossible to defend yourself. The subway stage, for instance, is borderline trying to stop you from enjoying the game.
  • Yooka-Laylee, despite its fully 3D gameplay, still pulls off old-fashioned foreground obstructions by forcing the camera angle in certain areas.
  • Quite common in the Yoshi's Island series and made worse by how some enemies always hide behind bushes, crystals or other things, even though the Yoshis themselves should be able to see them, and react accordingly, just fine.

Non-Video Game examples

  • Some networks, when covering hockey, have noticed that the view of the puck is obstructed by the near boards from the TV camera's point of view, and rectify it by showing the puck "through" the boards using CGI (and, presumably another camera that can track the puck's movements there). YMMV on whether this is necessary.
    • A similar effect happened with the short-lived FoxTrax puck-tracking system, in which the blue glow that was superimposed over the puck would end up being layered over the near boards. (Ironically, said glow was put in at least partially so help viewers see the puck better on their TVs, since this was still the age of the CRT and fuzzy pictures.)