Tag Archives: Metroidvania

Souno's Curse Header

Q&A With Kiro Team

A while back, I came across a new title in development that was nearing a launch on Kickstarter, and now I’m thrilled to bring it to the attention of an even wider audience than what it has been brought to already. Souno’s Curse, under development by Kiro Team based in Lyon in France, is an action-platforming game featuring staple elements of the Metroidvania genre. It features beautifully hand-drawn visuals reminiscent of games such as Hollow Knight and Cuphead and presents a narrative surrounded by mystery and focusing on such themes as love, regret friendship, and decisive action. Curious to learn as much as I could before the Kickstarter launches tomorrow, I reached out to Kiro Team’s Idir Amrouche to understand more about this wonderfully ambitious-looking title, and what gamers can come to expect whilst playing. Here’s what Idir Amrouche of Kiro Team had to say about Souno’s Curse:

 

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What were the influences behind your game?

Different media like books, movies, and anime, and of course video games. If I were to name a few:

– Kingdom Hearts

– Metal Gear Solid

– Megalobox anime

– The Witcher (game and books)

My main inspiration comes from Hollow Knight and Journey

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

The game is around 30% finished. We plan a release window for mid-2023

 

What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

One of them is the creative process when you let your imagination run wild and create new environments, characters, stories, etc…The second one is implementing the created assets in the game and seeing all that you imagined come to life.

 

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What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

The team is composed of people from France, Canada, and the USA, and all of them except for me have full or part-time jobs on the side. The most challenging part was to plan a roadmap taking into account varying availability and finding a workflow that suits everyone’s plannings/time zones.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

I started sharing info about the game on Twitter at the very early stages. I did not expect to have this much support and to have a community this big this fast. So I’d say it has been pretty well received so far.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

Souno’s Curse release is planned for Steam and GOG.com. We’d be very happy to release it on Nintendo Switch as well, which is why it is one of our Kickstarter stretch goals.

 

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Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

A few yes. At first, the game was just an experimental project that was supposed to last 3 or 4 months. But seeing how well it was received we decided to make a full game out of it, so of course, some elements had to be changed in order to adapt to the new scope

 

How exhilarating an experience has it been with the amount of interest taken in the game’s mythology even at this early stage?

It’s honestly crazy. To see so many people following every step of the process is amazing. This also gives us more motivation to come up with the highest quality possible to live up to their expectations. We hope people will love the demo.

 

How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

I think player feedback is one of the main pillars of game development. We learned so much about the strengths and weaknesses of the game just from watching the players’ behavior. After spending a certain amount of time working on the game you become blind to certain aspects of it.

 

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Amidst the influx of Metroidvania titles throughout the eighth and ninth generations of gaming, what would you say makes Souno’s Curse stand out in your opinion?

Well first it’s not a full-fledged Metroidvania but it’s borrowing elements from the genre. Second, I really think the themes and story of the characters and the plot will leave an impact on the hearts of the players. At least I hope so.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

I’d love to work with Hideo Kojima. It always feels like he is 20 years ahead of everyone else in the industry.

 

What is your opinion of the recent influx of indie developers coming out of France?

It’s great! The indie community is growing bigger, and more and more structures are being developed in order to help the developers either financially or by providing more exposure.

 

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Have there been any to have reached out to you guys for advice or to give advice throughout the development of Souno’s Curse?

Yes, many. That’s the good thing about Twitter, it’s always good to network and exchange tips and ideas between developers.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

If I had one piece of advice to give it would be: Don’t hide your game until it’s “perfect”. Let people test your prototypes and ideas as soon as possible and get feedback from them. You don’t need art or animations for a mechanic to be fun. Fail early fail often.

 

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Where on the Internet can people find you?

All the detailed information about Souno’s Curse is on our Kickstarter page. We will answer all your questions there:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/kiroteam/sounos-curse.

 

If you want to chat and chill with us, you can join our Discord :

 https://discord.com/invite/ukSraCAaFg

 

We are posting daily content about the game development on Twitter : 

https://twitter.com/KiroTeamGames

 

Do you have anything else to add?

See you on October 1st for the Steam Next Fest and Kickstarter launch!

 

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I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Idir for taking the time to out to talk to me about Souno’s Curse and share more information about the game. If anyone is interested in backing this awesome-looking title, you can do so by visiting the Kickstarter page as of tomorrow when the campaign launches. I wish Idir and the rest of the Kiro Team the best of luck with Souno’s curse’ Kickstarter campaign and subsequent launch, and I hope you guys are looking forward to this game as much as I am!

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Ender Lilies Header

Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights (PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X & Switch)

Developer(s) – Live Wire & AdGlobe

Publisher(s) – Binary Haze Interactive

Director(s) – Keisuke Okabe

Producer(s) – Junichi Asame

PEGI – 12

 

Released last month to overwhelmingly positive critical acclaim, Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights is a Metroidvania title, unlike most others. Combining dark fantasy with Japanese anime, it presents players with challenging gameplay reminiscent of the Dark Souls series and incorporates beautifully twisted mythology that results in a roller coaster of emotion from beginning to end. Some time ago, I had written a first impressions article on this game:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/02/01/ender-lilies-quietus-of-the-knights-first-impressions/

And I summarized my astonishment at just how good a game the developers seemed to be promising players. After finally finishing this game, I was anything but disappointed.

 

Graphics – 10/10

The game’s visuals make use of 2D sprites and environments similar to many modern-day Metroidvania classics such as the Ori games and Dust: An Elysian Tail. Albeit, Ender Lilies has a much darker atmosphere than either of the aforementioned games combined. Taking place in the sorrowful environments of Land’s End, the world had been ravaged by an evil entity known as the Blight, causing death and destruction throughout the world. Each location across the game is suitably scary and ominous, but at the same time, the game presents players with a feel of simultaneous beauty and melancholy in elements such as the soundtrack and certain other environmental designs. It’s rare that I’ve played a game that has such a stark contrast between eloquence and darkness as Ender Lilies does.

 

Gameplay – 8/10

The game is a 2D Metroidvania with RPG elements. Throughout the game, the player acquires more abilities to advance to otherwise impassable areas, in lieu of Metroidvania tradition, but new abilities in combat can also be learned throughout in the form of defeating both the main bosses and a series of sub-bosses that offer lesser, but strategically valuable abilities that can be used in accordance with either each situation in combat or for the purposes of exploration, and there’s certainly a lot of exploration to be had in this game. Backtracking is an important feature of this game, with players being able to discover many new and even secret areas within the game. But most prominent of all is the level of challenge that it presents players with. It’s not quite on the same level as Blasphemous in this respect, but it’s most definitely not a game for the faint of heart. Oftentimes, I found myself wondering whether or not I was in a more advanced area of the game than what I ought to have been, only to realize that I was completely on course to finishing it at almost all times. 

 

Controls – 10/10

As is needed in a game like this, the controls also pose no problems thankfully. If there had been any issues, it would’ve caused bigger problems than what it would in a game of reasonable difficulty, since Ender Lilies is a lot more demanding than the average Metroidvania. But any slip-ups where this game is concerned will be down to the player. It takes a great deal of skill and experience to advance through this game, but thankfully, the controls will not slow players down. 

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last a total of 22 hours, give or take, which for a Metroidvania is a reasonable amount of time to last. It’s nowhere near on the level as what Hollow Knight can be made to last, but this puts it on par with the average 2D open-world title at least. With any luck, the developers did leave scope for expansion in the form of either a sequel or DLC because this is a series that is most definitely worth continuing after one game, but only time will tell on that one, unfortunately. 

 

Storyline – 8/10

The story of Ender Lilies focuses on a young white priestess named Lily, who after waking up in a derelict church, discovers that the world has been ravaged by entities such as the evil Blighted creatures and the Rain of Death. Aided by numerous incorporeal allies, who are the last remaining remnants of individuals who were affected by the Rain of Death, Lily resolves to put an end to the curse and thus restore Land’s end to its former glory. As I commented in my first impressions article, I noticed similarities early on between this game and Shadow of the Colossus on the thematic level, as the game seemed to perpetuate the same feeling of bittersweetness throughout. Having played through it in its entirety, I stick by my initial assessment. The game takes the player through a whirlwind of emotion that will have them on the edge of their seats as they discover the backstory of each ally acquired throughout the game and ultimately discovering the fates of Lily and Land’s End

 

Originality – 7.5/10

Although the idea of a Metroidvania RPG had been perpetuated before on numerous occasions, the elements that make this game stand out among most other Metroidvanias, as well as other games in general, is in the atmosphere that it presents throughout, as well as it’s beautifully distorted mythology. Eldritch horrors litter Land’s End throughout, the game provides players with a wonderful contrast between beauty and horror, and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a video game, making it truly an unforgettable experience that players will savor for a long time. 

 

Happii

Overall, Ender Lilies is most definitely one of the best games I’ve played of 2021; it’s a weird and elegant game that will give players a stern challenge and along with that an immense sense of satisfaction, but at the same time, leave them with a profound sense of wonder after experiencing the story. It’s exactly the game that those in the Momodora series should’ve been.

Score

50.5/60

8/10 (Very Good)

SG88 The Addams Family Header

The Addams Family (Super NES & Mega Drive)

Developer(s) – Ocean Software

Publisher(s) – Ocean Software & Flying Edge

Designer(s) – Warren Lancashire

PEGI – N/A (Suitable for all ages)

 

Initially released in 1992 by Software for fourth-generation hardware, The Addams Family game, based on the 1991 movie starring Raul Julia, Angelica Huston, and Christopher Lloyd, received mixed reviews when it came out, (much like the film), is described as a boring Mario clone, or Mega Magazine even advising players to either “watch a tree, or grow something instead”. Versions for older consoles, such as the NES, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and even handheld consoles were also developed, but each of these versions is like their own games in and of themselves. 

With the original port, however, it’s interesting to me how the perception of an old game can potentially change over time. If I’d been reviewing back in the time of the Super NES, I may very well have had similar concerns to the likes of Mega Magazine, but even still, my overall opinion would have been very different, since not only do I enjoy this game a lot today, but I also played the hell out of it back when it was released. I enjoyed it thoroughly back then, and I still enjoy playing it now. 

 

Graphics – 8/10

The visuals differ slightly between both the Super NES and the Mega Drive version, but both versions do exceptionally well to capture the feel of not only the 1991 film but the franchise in general. It’s one of those games based on a license that tries to celebrate the license as much as possible, and I always enjoy a licensed game for that reason. The game takes place in and around the Addams residence, which is plagued by creatures of the night that Gomez Addams must contend with. Each area of the house is uniquely designed and differentiated from one another, giving it a strong vibe of classic Castlevania games. In particular, the portraits on the walls of the portrait gallery are excellently detailed in terms of technical performance, with the characters bearing striking resemblances to the real-life actors; not only that of Raul Julia as Gomez, Angelica Huston as Morticia, and Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester but also of Christina Ricci as Wednesday and Jimmy Workman as Pugsley. 

 

Gameplay – 8.5/10

Not quite a traditional 2D side scroller, the player has the option to come and go as they please throughout the Addams residence, giving it far more of a Metroidvania feel. The objective is to navigate the Addams residence and rescue each of the other family members; Wednesday, Pugsley, Grandma Addams, Uncle Fester, and finally Morticia. Throughout the game, there are several secret areas to uncover along the way, as well as different power-ups to use in order to reach otherwise impassable areas or to give the player an edge in combat. There’s also a series of pretty challenging boss fights to contend with at the end of each area; and challenging is the right word for this game, as there are also many different platforming sequences that will test even the most hardened of platformer fans. 

 

Controls – 10/10

The game’s controls are also as fluent as any good platformer was at the time. Featuring other items to use throughout, it’s actually given more variety in terms of gameplay than the average side scroller, and therefore, more functionality in terms of controls than in other games of the same ilk. There’s so much in this game to differentiate it from others in terms of controls alone that it made me wonder how even reviewers at the time couldn’t recognize that back then. 

 

Lifespan – 8.5/10

The lifespan is even longer than the average platformer, clocking in at around an hour and a half to two hours, depending on whether or not the player decides to complete it to 100%. Of course, there would be other games in other genres that would blow this amount of time out of the water, and would only continue to do so going into the fifth generation of gaming, but there’s a lot to be said for a game like this that dared to defy convention, even if it went pretty much unnoticed at the time. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The plot of the story follows the second half of the films quite closely, Tully Alford, the Addams Family lawyer, has taken over the Addams estate and captured the remaining Addams family members, and Gomez resolves to rescue them. The plot element of the film concerning Uncle Fester is also present, as he has amnesia and he is cured of it once Gomez releases him. The plot is presented nowhere near as well as what it is in the original film, but it does a good enough job setting up the premise of gameplay.

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s very easy to overlook how quietly innovative this game was back in its time. It perpetuated a lot of the same ideas that the likes of Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night did birthing the entire Metroidvania genre a full two years before the release of Super Metroid. It was even quite easy for me to take it for granted back in the day since I was unfamiliar with the concepts of gaming history and even the differentiation of gaming genres at the time, but as I’ve grown older and learned far more than I knew about games since, It’s made me appreciate truly how innovative this title was. 

 

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Overall The Addams Family remains every bit as much of a joy to play today as what it was back when it was released. I highly recommend this game to any side-scrolling fan who may be either looking for a challenge or looking to try a silently original game that unfortunately fell through the cracks at the time of its release. 

Score

49/60

8/10 (Very Good)

Zapling Bygone Header

Q&A With 9 Finger Games

Today brings not one, but two highly-anticipated Q&As that I’ve been particularly excited about doing; the first of which is on a game I’ve already covered that shows a great deal of promise from a new and innovative development team. Zapling Bygone, developed by 9 Finger Games based in Brighton in the UK, is a Metroidvania game centering around a mysterious alien being known as Zapling who has crashlanded on a foreign planet and resolves to make it his home. It’s a Metroidvania game with a heavy focus on exploration, storytelling and incorporating a very unique combat system inspired by the likes of Hollow Knight and Celeste. At the same time of writing my impressions article about the game:

Zapling Bygone: First Impressions

I contacted the game’s lead developer Stevis Andrea about the possibility of conducting a Q&A and for a chance to relay more information about what influenced this awesome-looking title and what challenges and obstacles have come with developing it so far following the game’s recent successful funding on Kickstarter. So here’s what Stevis Andrea of 9 Finger Games had to say about Zapling Bygone:

 

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What were the influences behind your game?

Initially, I was only inspired by Hollow Knight. I wanted to make a game that felt good to move about, while doing this I learned from Celeste and other precision platformers. I wasn’t really planning to make a game at this point, I was just making a prototype for fun. Eventually, I realized I was making a full game and remember watching a stream where T4coTV was playing Haiku the Robot demo. I realized that if Jordan could make a Metroidvania as a solo dev then I could too. So I started taking the prototype I was making a bit more seriously.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

The dev process is usually the same with me. I like to make things quickly and messy. Then iterate over them loads of times until I’m happy with them. That way I can get a feel for how something plays without committing too much time to it, then I can modify or scrap it without too many headaches. It also allows me to get feedback on things early on, I want people to enjoy the game. Having people play messy prototype builds before a mechanic is “set in stone”; allows me to ensure that it remains fun.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

About 30% of the way there, most of the groundwork, the overarching story, and core abilities are complete. Now it’s mostly getting my head down and making content to flesh things out.

 

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What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

Probably watching people play my game, having someone play my game and enjoy themselves is a weird feeling. It's exciting to create something that allows someone to break away from reality for a moment and focus on something I have made. It’s also nerve-wracking because I want them to like it as much as I do, but that’s of course not always the case. So far the feedback has been super positive though!

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

Marketing! Marketing is something you have to learn for yourself, what works for one project might not work for yours. Every game is unique and speaks to a different audience. Finding that audience and resonating with them can be difficult. I also hate feeling like a salesman, and when I’m pushing something I am passionate about I can worry that it can come off a bit too impersonal.
There was also a point in the Kickstarter that I found specifically challenging. There was a 5 day period where I only raised a few percent of the goal. That can be super nerve-wracking and stressful. It’s relatively normal for campaigns to have the mid-campaign dip, but it’s still no fun. I’m really happy with how it turned out though.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

Surprisingly well! I’m always my biggest critic so I tend to focus on the parts I’m not happy with. When I watch someone else play it and genuinely have fun it puts a lot of my worries to rest. Loads of people seem to believe in the project and me, and that is really reassuring and heartwarming.

 

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What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC initially, and hopefully Switch shortly after Steam launch. The switch is super popular among Metroidvania fans, and it’s also the only console that my nephew personally owns. I’d love to see it on PS and Xbox too, but it’s not the focus at the moment.

 

Throughout your professional experience, which games did you produce or test, and how did they go on to influence you as a developer yourself?

I made probably a half-dozen prototypes and small games, I never really cared for them too much. It was a really good groundwork to use to build on though. I made a load of wacky things for fun. A small prototype where you play as a wheelchair-bound old man with a shotgun and a grapple hook, a frog-platformer that changes time according to what surface it lands on, a Risk Of Rain style game crossed with tower defense.

 

I have been meaning to make a website where I can dump all these old hobby projects for people to download, if I can find them all that is. Professionally, I worked in the gaming/gambling industry. I mostly tested and eventually produced digital slot games, I learned how much I dislike the online gambling industry. I also learned that simply because something is technically a game or “art”, it doesn’t mean there is passion put into it. I want to make games that I am passionate about, with honesty and love. I want a career that means something to me. I am financially worse off than I was working at my previous job, but I am way happier.

 

Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or
reworked?

Most of the stretch goals in the Kickstarter are mechanics/areas that I had to scrap in order to keep the budget as low as possible. Who knows, maybe they can be a free DLC if the game sells well enough.

 

You mention on the Kickstarter page that “I’m a solo developer, therefore I am a single point of failure for the project.” Have you felt the pressure that comes with the fact, and if so, do you find you work better under pressure or free of it?

Good question! I worked as a game producer, so I wanted to be honest in the Kickstarter about the risks. Being a solo developer allows me to have complete creative control over the project, but it also means that if something ever happened to me, then nobody is around to finish the project. I wanted to be honest about that.

I don’t think I have felt more pressure because of it, in fact, I might have felt less pressure. I don’t have to rely on anyone else. If the project was to fail somehow it would be down to me. I always mention the definition of work stress. “Having responsibility over something you have no control over.” In this case, I have full control over the project and I am pretty certain I can deliver. So I don’t find it too stressful at all! Plus the ZB community is just so supportive, I always feel like they have my back.

 


How instrumental has player feedback in terms of shaping the course of the project been?

I’d say it has been the driving force for the project. Even the first builds I was sending to a friend (Hi James!) to get him to see how the movement felt, we probably went through a dozen builds until it felt right. After that, I was posting demo/prototype builds in the discord constantly with a few dedicated people (I’d say friends now) who would play every build. So player feedback has been hugely important, and I’m considering ways I can continue to have that level of feedback throughout the rest of development.

 

You also mention that you reached out to the Hollow Knight community for feedback. Have you tried to reach out to the developers of Hollow Knight for feedback as well?

I haven’t, I’d imagine they are way too busy working on Silksong. I did have the pleasure of meeting Matthew Griffin in a discord voice channel, and I had to suppress my inner fanboy. And no, sadly he didn’t casually mention the Silksong release date.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or for any franchise, which would it be, and why?

I honestly don’t think I’d like to work on any existing IP that I am a fan of, I would feel like I’m intervening somehow. I wouldn’t want my creative direction to influence their decisions, I’d rather sit back and play their games when they are released. When it comes to new IP, I really like working with passionate people, especially new startups.

After working in the gambling industry I really appreciate when people are passionate about their games and would love to share this journey with more people someday. I miss working in a team in a lot of ways. I like new worlds, new environments and fresh mechanics. So I’d like to work with any passionate indies that are making something unique.

 

Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

I find broad advice kind of hard because there are a million ways to do anything when it comes to development. I’d say one of the most important things in game design is to keep it consistent. Everything from art, music, game mechanics, fonts, vibe, whatever. It doesn’t even matter if the art is bad, because if it is consistently “bad” then it looks intentional. Same goes for nearly everything design-wise. And finally, have fun with it. Don’t set out to make a complex game right away, just make small game-jam size games. Or even just fun mechanics. Just because you don’t finish a project doesn’t mean it is a waste of time, build on that experience and make the next thing better. Eventually, you will get to the point where you are comfortable enough to make your dream game.

 

I also found the Scrabdackle easter egg in the demo. I interviewed Jake a while back; have the two of you had anything to say about your respective games or advice to offer?

Jakefriend Interview

Yes, a ton. There are a bunch of indie devs that I chat with via discord almost daily. Jake is in a similar boat to me, at a similar point in development. They say to surround yourself with people you admire, and Jake is definitely one of those people. Like I mentioned before, I love being around passionate people. Jake and the other indie devs that I chat to are so inspiring and motivating. I don’t know if I would have made Zapling Bygone without them.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?
Twitter is @9fingergames I’m pretty active there. You can wishlist Zapling Bygone on Steam here:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1489110/Zapling_Bygone

 

Do you have anything else to add?
Yes! Thanks for your time, thanks for having me, and thanks to every single backer that has
helped me reach my goal!

 

I also want to take the opportunity to thank Stevis for agreeing to our Q&A and sharing as much exciting information as he could about Zapling Bygone and what players came come to expect from this deeply promising Metroidvania title. Zapling Bygone is most definitely one of the most unique-looking Metroidvanias slated for release in the future, and it will be very interesting to see how the final game plays out upon release. There’ll be another Q&A coming later on today, but in the meantime, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this game, and I hope you’re looking forward to playing Zapling Bygone as much as I certainly am!

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

SG88 Momodora II Header

Momodora II (PC)

Developer(s) – rdein

Publisher(s) – rdein

PEGI – Not yet rated (Non-graphic violence and some strong language)

 

Released one year after the original game, Momodora II took a different approach to gameplay, playing out as a Metroidvania as opposed to a linear 2D platformer, and carried on the story almost directly after the events of the original Momodora. Although this game pales in comparison to other classic Metroidvanias, the second game is decisively the best out of the original trilogy that was developed before the release of Momodora: Reverie Under The Moonlight.

 

Graphics – 7/10

The graphical quality of the game is just as good as the first, and it seems a lot more cohesive somehow. Gone are the science fiction elements of the first game, such as guns and aliens in favor of a much more fantastical look, with the second game perpetuating a lot of the common elements found in later Momodora games, such as the save points and the variety of enemies found throughout. Gone also is the 8-BIT soundtrack in favor of a more orchestral brand of music, which in all honesty, fits the tableau of the series far better.

 

Gameplay – 7.5/10

Playing out like a traditional Metroidvania game, there is a variety of new abilities to collect in place of different kinds of weapons, and additional items can be found to give the player additional health. There are also a couple more boss fights thrown in as opposed to the one found in the first game, and although again, it falls way below par of what many other games in the genre have to offer, such as Blasphemous, the Ori games, and even Xeodrifter, it is still a pretty fun game to play a good few challenges and secrets to uncover along the way. 

 

Controls – 10/10

Again, like the first game, there are also no issues with the controls, since they practically play out identical to each other. The second game is almost like an extension to the first in respect to controls, but there are a couple of new mechanics introduced in the form of new types of abilities to wield compared to the previous game to at least keep things relatively fresh.

 

Lifespan – 1.5/10

Clocking in at around 50 minutes in total, the second game only lasts fractionally longer than the first, and especially as the second game is a lot more open-ended, it seems all the more underwhelming because of that. I can’t help but think that with a little more thought and time put into it that this game could’ve ended up being far more than what it ruined out to be; after all, Blasphemous had a particularly lengthy development cycled before finally seeing the light of day, and turns out to be one of the most critically acclaimed games of the eighth generation. But the developer seemed to prioritize getting the game out as fast as possible as opposed to putting in that little more effort than was needed, unfortunately.

 

Storyline – 6.5/10

The story of Momodora II, however, is a drastic improvement compared to that of the first game. It follows a young girl who has made a journey into a mysterious lair outside of Koho in order to find and defeat an entity known as the Underworld Queen, who has been terrorizing the land. There’s a lot more dialogue, and therefore, a lot more story and emotion conveyed throughout, and it has a particularly interesting outcome that again, makes it a much more interesting narrative to experience than that of the first Momodora.

 

Originality – 4/10

Momodora II does far better to stand out from other Metroidvanias in comparison to the first game, but still, there are a lot of familiar elements that make it seem quite typical of any game in the genre. Eventually, the series would go on to become something much more distinct than what it started out as, but it was a lengthy process that happened over the course of several years, and it was something that could’ve happened a lot sooner if the developers had tried a few new things like new gameplay mechanics or something newer in terms of conceptual design. Some small contribution to that was made here, but not enough in my opinion.

 

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Overall, Momodora II goes leaps and bounds ahead of its predecessor, but it is still a fairly generic Metroidvania title compared to others. It may be the best of the original Momodora trilogy, but unfortunately, it is the best of a bunch of below-par games in the lead-up to Reverie Under the Moonlight, which would blow them all out of the water. 

Score

36.5/60

6/10 (Average)

Zapling Bygone Header

Zapling Bygone: First Impressions

I recently came across yet another Metroidvania title with a great deal of promise and a great deal of substance in its early stages of development. Zapling Bygone is a sci-fi Metroidvania following the story of an alien asylum seeker named Zapling, who after fleeing his home planet comes across a completely new world inhabited by strange and dangerous creatures and must traverse it in a bid to call it home. I’d had one eye on this game for a few weeks leading up to this article, and a Q&A will be to follow as soon as possible, but for now, I wanted to give my verdict on the game in this early stage of development, and happily, my verdict is extremely positive. 

 

Graphics

The game makes use of traditional 8-BIT visuals set on a weird and wonderful alien planet reminiscent of many classic or independently developed games within the genre, such as Metroid, Xeodrifter, and Axiom Verge. What has been shaped in the way of environmental design is very interesting to look at, albeit it’s only a very small section of what is soon to be a particularly sizable open world, and I can’t wait to see what the rest of it looks like when the full project is released. Already packed with numerous different areas to explore, it’ll be even more interesting to see how the mythology of the game is expanded upon. 

 

Gameplay

The game is a traditional Metroidvania and primarily takes inspiration from Hollow Knight, relying on exploration, combat item collecting, and gaining new abilities in order to discover new areas. The player character must find different types of skulls in order to gain additional abilities that can either fool enemies into thinking you are one of them or to gain other strategic advantages; it works in a somewhat similar way to Skul: The Hero Slayer. Something else I was pleasantly surprised to find was that there is actually an easter directly referencing another indie game currently in development that I covered some time back; Scrabdackle by Jakefriend. I interviewed Jake some time ago:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/03/23/qa-with-jakefriend-scrabdackle/

And so I slipped the lead developer of Zapling Bygone Stevis Andrea an additional question about their relationship and how the easter egg came to be, so it’ll be interesting to learn more about that in addition. But besides which, the game in its current state shows great promise in terms of its wildly varied combat system, level of exploration, and the design of the boss fights, which reminded me of Teslagrad in particular. 

 

Controls

The idea of the game’s general control scheme is fine, and once it’s released I’m sure the concern I’m about to express will be ironed out during development, but my advice would be that if you’re playing with a PlayStation 4 controller, the controller mapping is not immediately established, and it takes a little bit of adjustment. Below is my own personal mapping of the controls for Zapling Bygone, which worked just fine to me, so if anyone is thinking of trying the demo, and are using a PS4 controller, refer to this mapping:

 

But otherwise, many of the control mechanics themselves are either very unique or very reminiscent of other Metroidvanias, such as the Ori games or Blasphemous.

 

Lifespan

With only a portion of the game’s world revealed, and the promise on the Kickstarter page of at least 6 different areas to explore throughout, it indeed has the potential to last an extraordinarily long time. Whether it does end up lasting as long as the average Metroidvania, or maybe even longer, depends on how much is given to players to do throughout. But with the insane amount of collectibles, there are throughout the demo alone, I’m confident it will be made to last an exceptional amount of time. 

 

Storyline

The basic premise of Zapling Bygone follows the alien lifeform Zapling as he crashlands onto a brave new mysterious world in a bid to call it home and overcome the many dangers it poses to him. The charm of the game’s story exists not just in its basic premise, but in its backstory, which can be periodically discovered across the entire game, similar to the likes of The Swapper, though I can already tell that this game’s story is going to be far more immersing than the former. It certainly has the potential to spark wonder, controversy, and fan theories that can possibly make for one of the most interesting Metroidvania mythologies yet. 

 

Originality

Though clearly not without its sources of inspiration, it certainly had the potential to stand out among the circle of indie Metroidvania games. The extent of which would depend on how it does to try and break away from the likes of Super Metroid, Guacamelee, Dust: An Elysian Tail and others, and how much emphasis there is on this being its own fully cohesive concept. The combat system and the world mythos has a lot to them, and elements are there unlike a lot of Metroidvanias I’ve played, but it will be interesting to see exactly how much effort the developers put into making this game truly their own, and not just coming across as a collection of features and ideas based on other games. 

 

But overall, I was extremely impressed with how Zapling Bygone looks, plays, and tells the story of the main character and of the world around him. Since the Kickstarter campaign began, the idea has gathered a great of momentum from backers, gamers, and streamers alike, and it’s not hard to see why. If you’d like to try the demo out for yourself, you can download it now for free via the link below:

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1489110/Zapling_Bygone/

 

Or if you would like to back the game on Kickstarter, you can do so via this link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/9fingergames/zapling-bygone

 

In the meantime, I hope you guys enjoy playing Zapling Bygone, and tell me what you think of this game. I hope you enjoyed reading my assessment as much as I did putting it together.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Aleya's Ascent Header

Q&A With Ursa Minor Games

A while back, I came across another very promising title on Twitter that I wanted to bring to the attention of gamers for a multitude of different reasons. Aleya’s Ascent, under development at Ursa Minor Games based in New York, is a Metroidvania title making use of superbly rendered 8-BIT visuals with a heavy emphasis on exploration, combat, and precision platforming. The player assumes control of the main character Aleya, who is chosen by fate to tame a series of feral and long-forgotten deities, giving the plot a strong feel of the likes of Shadow of the Colossus and The Last Guardian in my opinion. But seeking further clarification of what influenced the game, what bumps and scrapes there had been along the way in the developmental process and when the game will be released by, I reached out to the game’s lead developer William Henderson for more details about what’s been going on behind the scenes of this excellent-looking game. So here’s what William of Ursa Minor Games had to say about Aleya’s Ascent:

 

Aleya's Ascent 1

What were the influences behind your game?

Main influences at this stage in development include games like Celeste (big one), both Ori games, Hollow Knight, Castlevania SOTN, etc. The usual suspects as far as Metroidvania go. Also, the style/aesthetic/story is heavily inspired by Legend of Zelda.

 

What has the developmental process been like?

I carried game dev as a side project for about 3 years before deciding to try and push for a full-fledged commercial indie game as a solo developer, so the process has included a lot of learning the indie game landscape, reading articles, and watching youtube videos.

 

How close are we to seeing the finished product?

As a solo indie developer working his first game, it can be hard to tell. I hope to release a polished demo Q3/4 2021 and then reassess the timeline based on player feedback. There isn’t any real pressure to release ASAP, so I want to take the time to make Aleya’s Ascent exactly how I envision it without cutting any corners to meet a deadline.

 

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What has been the most exciting aspect of development?

For me, the most motivating part has been sharing some of the art and gameplay that I worked hard on. It’s exciting getting positive feedback, whether it be through Twitter, Reddit, Discord, or with friends and family in person.

 

What has been the most challenging aspect of development?

I think for Aleya’s Ascent, it has to be finding the time. Life gets in the way and I can’t spend as many nights or weekends as I’d like on development.

 

How well has the game been received so far?

I’ve been very happy with the response it’s received on the platforms I’ve presented on, but I know I still have a long way to go so I’m excited to share more in the future.

 

What platforms are you looking to bring the game to?

PC is a definite, with the possibility of a Switch release down the line.

 

Aleya's Ascent 3

What were your prior programming experiences before developing Aleya’s Ascent?

I have an engineering degree so I was exposed to programming in college, but not object-oriented. I created a handful of game prototypes as practice while in Graduate school before I felt comfortable committing to a first commercial game.

 

Are there any preliminary plans to expand on the world of Aleya, either through a sequel or DLC?

It’s hard to say at this point. While I have an overarching story prepared, it’s unclear where Aleya 1 would end and Aleya 2 (or DLC) would begin. I certainly would love to continue Aleya’s story, but don’t want to force a sequel before the first is finished.

 

Are there any programmers or game creators you took influence from?

Definitely. The developers/programmers from the listed influences above would be a good place to start. It’d be impossible to list them all, but the Twitter indie game circles share so much information about neat tricks/tips/shaders, etc. that it really has been vital to my development process.

 

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Have there been any ideas at this stage of development that have since been scrapped or reworked?

A whole lot. I’ve had levels and entire maps scrapped to allow for core gameplay changes. In one iteration Aleya was a robot. I’m not afraid to axe anything if I feel it isn’t good enough or doesn’t quite fit.

 

What would be next for Ursa Minor Games following the release of Aleya’s Ascent?

Another game for sure. What form or shape or genre that takes is up in the air. I’ll probably develop a couple of game prototypes on itch.io or something and see if any of them get really positive feedback.

 

If you had the opportunity to develop a game with any company or any franchise, which would it be, and why?

Nintendo for sure. I grew up playing/loving their games and it would be a dream come true to work with them.

 

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Do you have any advice for aspiring developers that may be reading this?

Well, I hesitate to offer advice as I’m just a first-time game developer and a hobbyist at that but for other hobbyists/solo developers, I found success in chasing inspirations and following whims, I think my best/best-received work has been things that strike me when I’m not working on the game. And definitely take notes once an idea pops into your head, it’ll help you remember and flesh it out into a definitive game concept.

 

Where on the Internet can people find you?

You can find me on Twitter as @UrsaMinorGames, Reddit as /u/ursa-minor-games, and find Aleya’s Ascent on steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1470540/Aleyas_Ascent/ Also join into the Aleya’s Ascent Discord channel for early concepts, works in progress, and other discussions: https://discord.gg/e5qvqkT78z

 

Do you have anything else to add?

I’d like to thank you for taking the time and having the patience to reach out and ask questions about Aleya’s Ascent.

 

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I also want to thank William for agreeing for sharing more information about Aleya’s Ascent, and to wish him and Ursa Minor Games the best of luck throughout the rest of the developmental process as well as luck with the eventual release of the game. Aleya’s Ascent was a game that immediately caught my eyes in terms of retroactive graphical quality, and I have hopes for the great gameplay to match. In the meantime, you can visit Ursa Minor Games’ social media pages and the Steam page, but for now, I hope you guys enjoyed learning more about this title.

Game on,

Scouse Gamer 88

Blu Cover Art

Blu: First Impressions

Among the many video game projects I’ve scouted out through social media or crowdfunding websites is a very promising Metroidvania title with a great deal of potential. Blu, under development at MyOwnGames based in Paris, France, tells the story of the titular character and takes place in a setting reminiscent of Feudal Japan, but with a more varied range of influences in terms of conceptual design. The ninja apprentice Blu must save the land of Talpa from an entity known as The Corrupted amidst a conspiracy that has gripped the land for centuries. The game is almost funded on Kickstarter after what has been a very popular campaign, and with 11 days left to go, I thought it was about time that I gave my verdict on my first impressions of this title after playing the demo. If you’d like to contribute to the Kickstarter campaign, you can do so via the link below:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/-myowngames-/blu-vs-the-world

 

You can also download the demo from the Game’s Steam page via this link: 

https://store.steampowered.com/app/1339960/Blu/

 

And if you would also like to read my Q&A with the game’s lead programmer, Damian “Dam” Robinett, you can do so via this link:

https://scousegamer88.com/2021/04/02/qa-with-damian-robinett-blu/

 

But in the meantime, here’s what I thought of Blu in the beta stages of its development:

Graphics

As I said, the game is set in a world largely based on Feudal Japan, but the Corruption has taken hold of enemies that are very much based on Medieval fantasy, resembling trolls orcs, whilst at the same time, including mechanics enemies similar to those of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. It’s from there that players can understand how Dead Cells became a huge influence on this game, but even in the early stages of development, I can understand how some of these new ideas also come together to form their own cohesive concept. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Lukas Piel, is also extremely catchy and befitting of the settings of the game. 

 

Gameplay

A traditional Metroidvania, players must scour the world in search of collectibles and new abilities in order to advance. It’s also heavy on combat, puzzle-solving, and leveling up preemptively acquired skills, giving it an RPG feel similar to the likes of Dust and Ori 1 and 2. Again, from early on, I could see the potential this game has, with the number of different weapons available to purchase throughout, and the satisfaction to be gained by upgrading abilities and equipment as the game goes on. There is also a fair bit of strategy involved, and different approaches that need to be taken in accordance with what enemies the player faces, similar to Blasphemous, but nowhere near as unforgiving. For as much as I love Blasphemous, the lower difficulty in comparison is welcome.

 

Blu 4

Controls

Since the game is still in the preliminary stages of development, the controls are a little stiff, and the character animations in accordance with them, have not yet been perfected it would seem. But once they have been refined to a greater extent, the controls should be no problem. The demo’s control scheme is far more tailored to the mouse and keyboard, though it can be played with a controller, which in the long-term, will be preferable to most players, so they just need to make sure that controller support is built upon before release, and then there should be no problem with the control scheme whatsoever. 

 

Lifespan

With so many things to do, so many abilities to acquire and upgrade, so many weapons to choose from and so many story elements to it, Blu has the potential to last an exceptionally long time, especially for a Metroidvania game. How long it lasts, to me, depends on the full size of the world, which doesn’t seem to have been revealed yet. My biggest hope for this title is for it to include an open world that, at the bare minimum, is comparable to that of the Ori games, or Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, or another upcoming Metroidvania that I’m currently keeping tabs on; Anew: The Distant Light. As long as that is the case where Blu is concerned, then I think we will have quite an impressive title on our hands.

 

Storyline

The storyline also has a lot of potential for expanding upon. The basic premise is interesting on its own, but I can’t wait for the introduction of things like support characters, sub-plots, and whatever themes will be perpetuated throughout. Being reminiscent of Feudal Japan, there are a lot of stories told throughout that era that the developers could potentially hearken back to or reference, but as this game clearly is its own fully cohesive concept, there is potential for even more to happen within the story. 

 

Originality

Though clearly not without its influences, Blu certainly has the potential to stand out among the many different Metroidvania titles that have been released throughout both the eighth and ninth generations of gaming so far. It will certainly do well to top a lot of the games in the genre that have lacked in more than enough aspects such as Exodus, The Swapper, and Xeodrifter. The game also seems to do better to perpetuate the culture and behavior of ninjas than what many other games do; not to the same extent that Mark of the Ninja, but to a better extent than the likes of Strider or Ninja Gaiden, which portray ninjas as kill-crazy warriors as opposed to how they really operate. 

 

Overall, Blu’s demo certainly perpetuates the potential that this game has to make waves throughout the indie community. The Kickstarter campaign needs to be funded as soon as possible for this title to see the light of day, and it will have certainly been money well spent by the backers and the developers.

Exodus (PC)

Developer(s) – Gahlmac Game Studio

Publisher(s) – Multi-Form

PEGI – 3

 

Released back in 2013 to a very mixed reception by the Steam community, Exodus is a Metroidvania that was brought out shortly before the influx of games in the genre that would follow from many other indie developers, including Dust: An Elysian Tail, Xeodrifter, Blasphemous, and Hollow Knight. For the most part, the Metroidvania genre has yielded some of the best games of the eighth generation for me with the likes of Axiom Verge, Ori & the Blind Forest, Ori & The Will of the Wisps, and Cathedral, but unfortunately, the same can’t be said of Exodus.

 

Graphics – 8/10

The one aspect in which I can’t fault the game for, however, is in the graphics. Hand-drawn and set on a mysterious alien planet, the game has been given a very vibrant and colorful atmosphere that has the feel of both tranquility and danger in equal measure. The environmental design is also as wonderfully varied as it should be in any decent Metroidvania title, taking place in forest lands, ancient ruins, and icy mountains. Unlike every other element of this game, the scenery leaves very little to be desired. 

 

Gameplay – 5/10

In terms of gameplay, however, especially compared to most other Metroidvanias, is extremely bland and uninteresting. The combat style is very unoriginal and the range of different abilities that can be acquired throughout for the most part seem to simply conform to the Metroidvania blueprint as opposed to them being a little more diverse than what they do. With games like Alwa’s Awakening and Alwa’s Legacy, both provide something very different in the way of combat and puzzle-solving that make them stand out among many others, but with this game, it doesn’t seem the developers even tried to be perfectly honest. 

 

Controls – 5/10

The controls in Exodus also seem embarrassing even compared to other generic Metroidvanias. The jump mechanics are extremely stiff, and many sequences involve both traditional controller movement and simultaneous point, kind of like in Terraria, but as some sequences require the use of both of these mechanics at the same time, it can cause problems for the player. And a lot of these different kinds of sequences were handled far better in older games in the genre such as Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, so for the developers to have even failed to follow the initial blueprints just make Exodus seem all the more amateurish. 

 

Lifespan – 3/10

The game can be made to last there around 3 hours, which again, falls way short of the average lifespan of a Metroidvania. Though given the number of problems there are with every other aspect of this game, I’m amazed that people have even made it through the first hour. It wouldn’t be so bad if there were a few more things to do around the more open spaces than what there are, but it was a further push that this game needed which the developers seemed unwilling to implement. 

 

Storyline – 4/10

The story of Exodus involves either one of two selectable characters, Zoulux or Ly’sax, who have become stranded on an alien planet named Exodus and explore it in order to uncover the mysteries behind it and to save the populous along the way. Again, it simply follows the blueprint of the original Metroid as opposed to perpetuating a new idea for a story in the same way that Metroidvanias like Blasphemous did. Since there seemed to be very little to the personalities of any of the characters involved, it was far too difficult for me to become emotionally invested in the story.

 

Originality – 3/10

The main thing that I’ve touched on many times in this review is that the developers simply seemed to be following the blueprint of bigger and better Metroidvania games that came before it, and this can be said for pretty much every aspect of the game; even the visuals, which were the only redeeming quality in my opinion. But the thing is, it couldn’t even follow the blueprint right in terms of things like gameplay and especially controls. So, therefore, the game does stand out to a small degree, but for very much the wrong reasons. 

 

Angrii

In summation, Exodus is a game not to be taken seriously alongside many of the other greater Metroidvania titles that have since been released. It’s available for less than a pound on Steam, but frankly, with how little effort was put into it, players should really be offered money to play it. 

Score

28/60

4.5/10 (Mediocre)

SG88 Metroid Header

Metroid (Nintendo Entertainment System)

Developer(s) – Nintendo R&D1 & Intelligent Systems

Publisher(s) – Nintendo

Director(s) – Satoru Okada

Producer(s) – Gunpei Yokoi

PEGI – 7

 

Released at around the midpoint of the third generation on the NES to generally positive reviews, selling best in America, Metroid became a favorite among fans of the original NES, and of course, would go on to become one of Nintendo’s flagship franchises along with the likes of Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda and Donkey Kong. I was excited before first going into this one some years ago because it wasn’t a game I got to experience at the time of its release, and I was very much looking forward to seeing the beginnings of this franchise after hearing what I had done through word of mouth. But although I do think it is one of the better games released on the NES, and that I can understand why so many people regard it as a beloved classic, to me, the series did get better as it went on; especially as this game suffered from a lot of limitations that the era of gaming in which it occupied presented. 

 

Graphics – 10/10

The best quality this game has, in my opinion, is the visuals. Set across an expansive alien world, it presented something extremely different from what Nintendo was putting out at the time, which mostly involved worlds made up of anthropomorphic animals and contemporary fantasy settings. Although there were plenty of games with sci-fi elements on the NES, such as Abadox, Contra, and Metal Gear, it was indeed interesting to see the makers of the console try their hand at it themselves, and the end result is one of the best-looking games on the system. The game’s soundtrack, composed by Hirokazu Tanaka, also compliments the game’s atmosphere in a way that also goes above and beyond that of which many other NES games attempted.

 

Gameplay – 6/10

Although the original Metroid is generally described as an action-adventure, ostensibly it’s a Metroidvania, although that term at the time had yet to be coined, of course, until Super Metroid and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night were both released many years later. The player must navigate their way through an open world, collect items, upgrades, and new abilities, and defeat bosses in order to unlock new areas, and ultimately face off against the end boss. But as this particular genre of game was yet to be built on, it suffers from limitations such as there being no in-game map, which in the Metroidvania genre, has become a staple element. Being a by-product of its time, players were reliant on either a strategy guide or even drawing up rough maps for themselves to make sure they don’t get lost or explore an area twice needlessly. It’s enjoyable to play with a strategy guide, but a nightmare without one. 

 

Controls – 7/10

Another area where problems exist is also the control scheme. As the game also has a lot of sequences whereby players must jump up vertically elongated areas, this presents issues because the game’s jump mechanics can feel quite inconsistent. Super Metroid had the same problem, as well as a few others, but not to the same extent as the original Metroid does. What’s also sorely lacking is the ability to shoot diagonally, which again, would be something that would be greatly improved on with future Metroidvania titles.

 

Lifespan – 7/10

The game can be made to last around an hour and a half, which in all fairness, whilst that seems like nothing compared to games today, was actually a fair bit of time longer than the average game in the late 80s. In this respect, the original Metroid was somewhat ahead of its time, along with the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link. Again, it may be down to the limitation of what hardware was being used back then that the game couldn’t have been made to last longer than what it does, but the lifespan did manage to break some new ground at least. 

 

Storyline – 7/10

The story of Metroid is that the Galactic Federation has sent a bounty named Samus Aran to the planet Zebes, which is infested with mysterious hostile aliens known as Metroids, in order to take out Mother Brain, a biochemical life form controlling the Space Pirates, who were responsible for the Metroid outbreak. Not a lot of that is made clear throughout the game, as in lieu of third-generation tradition, players had to read the manual in order to learn as much about the narrative as possible. But the reveal that Samus is in fact a woman is considered to be one of the most iconic moments in gaming history, as the concept of a female protagonist was pretty much unheard of in video games at the time. 

 

Originality – 8/10

It’s for that same reason, as well as its contemporary sci-fi setting, style of play, and accompanying soundtrack, that Metroid stands out as being one of the most unique titles on the system. Although the series would go on to reach greater heights, and that the character of Samus Aran would go on to become even more admired by gamers everywhere, this is where it all started, and for many gamers, this title broke a lot of new ground in ways that no one could have expected. Satoru Okada would go on to become one of Nintendo’s most iconic figures until his retirement in 2012, and it’s not hard to see why with the legacy he and the late great Gunpei Yokoi have left behind with the release of titles like this.

 

Happii

Overall, Metroid, whilst it indeed has too many flaws for me personally to be able to label it as such, is still considered by many to be a classic and an NES favorite, and for good reason. It was a Metroidvania before the genre was even properly conceived, and no game had played anything like it at the time. 

Score

45/60

7/10 (Good)