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File:Obstructiveforeground.jpg

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.

Better games avert this issue by fading out the obstruction when they think it's in the way.

Note that in some cases, Obstructive Foreground is done deliberately.

Compare Behind the Black.

Examples of Obstructive Foreground include:


  • 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.
      • You do have to find them first, however. Power Bombs can help by making them momentarily visible.
  • 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.
  • Golden Axe also gives players hell with this trope. Especially in the duel mode.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog does this with metal girders in the Starlight Zone, and with plant leaves in Angel Island Zone.
  • 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 many first-timers off-guard enough to forfeit a star. Why? Because the rabbit spawns behind a bush. Ristar, from his perspective, should be able to see, but the player certainly can't.
  • 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.
  • 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...
  • Inverted just as annoyingly in Messiah where the camera is always between you and the closest obstruction behind you, which can mean lining up for difficult jumps when all you can see is your character's backside.
  • The Forest of Illusion in Super Mario World
  • Shows up in Super Smash Bros Brawl with the Nintendogs and Mr. Resetti "Assist Trophies", who are there solely to take up screen space. Gods help you if you're on a small stage, or worse, a moving one.
  • 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.
  • 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 Commander Keen Episode I, you could walk through pipes but not see through them. They were perfect for hiding Gargs.
  • Level 9 of Battletoads has too many view-obstructing tubes you have to fight enemies around.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Intentionally used in Battle City and Tank Force with tree tiles which makes it harder to see what's underneath them.
  • Used in one stage of the second NES Ninja Gaiden, to infuriating effect.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Low-lying foreground terrain can occasionally obscure items or traps in Odin Sphere, but fortunately enemies are always tall enough to be easily seen.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Aladdin Virgin Games made annoying use of this.
  • 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.
  • This is one of the suggested uses of the canvas feature of the Super Game Boy, in its accompanying Players Guide.
  • Hammerfight runs into this if you try to fight too close to the top of the screen.
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