Cave Story+ Special Edition for Nintendo Switch

Cave Story has come a long way since it’s humble beginnings in 2004. A great game indeed that has recently just seen a very limited run of physical copies put into circulation for the Nintendo Switch. Released on June 20th, I picked up my copy alongside a brand new Nintendo Switch. This isn’t going to be a review of the game itself, but more of a showcase of the items included in this special edition release. For returning fans and new players alike, there are some very cool inclusions with this $30 title.

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Cave Story+ and Nintendo Switch

I have to start off by giving credit to Nicalis, the independent publisher responsible for both the Binding of Isaac and now Cave Story+ physical releases for the Nintendo Switch. There was a lot of love put into not only the packaging, but also the included goodies. Also, their website is glorious and I highly suggest you check it out. One of the most original websites I’ve seen in years. Nicalis Website

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Game, Keychain, Full Color Manual, and Soundtrack

Old school gamers should be drooling by now due to the actual inclusion of a full-color manual. A full-color manual! 32 pages of beautiful artwork and full of inspiration from classic NES games. The character artwork on each page just screams nostalgia of cracking open manuals from the late 80s. The small unassuming soundtrack sports some cute vector art of Quote, the main protagonist, as well as 41 tracks from the game. A great piece for collectors of video game soundtracks and Cave Story’s does not disappoint.

Last of all is the inclusion of a random character keychain if bought from GameStop. While these are cool, I’m not a big fan of the fact that not everyone who buys the game gets the same items. I was fortunate enough to know my local GameStop manager and was able to request getting the Quote keychain.  Quote, Curly and Balrog are all available and I’m hoping to pickup the remaining two online over the coming weeks.

Cave-Story-Keychains

For only $30 this special edition of Cave Story+ is a steal for fans, collectors, or even Switch owners looking for a new game. Don’t wait to long to get a copy though, as I expect Cave Story+ to become uncommon before the end of the year and much like its 3DS counterpart, reselling for higher then retail further down the road.

Unformed – Kickstarter Spotlight

Unformed is a Dark Souls and H.P. Lovecraft inspired 2D adventure game who’s Kickstarter campaign is wrapping up on June 22nd, 2017. I’ve recently played through a good amount of the demo available from the campaign page and I’ve got more then a few thoughts that I’d like to share.

Unformed - Save Point

Unformed is a quite beautiful game and gave me flashbacks to my time playing Guacamelee, but with a much more somber tone. It possesses a beautifully colorful art style and if there is one thing I have to give the developers, Blackfire Games, credit for are the environments. The graphics are crisp, clean, and easily the high point.

Unformed - Dark Cave Gameplay

Unfortunately, the rest of the game isn’t quite as polished, or at least not in the demo provided. Inspirations from the Souls series are abundant within both combat and leveling. A stamina gauge is used to enforce careful decision making during combat. All action besides running take some mount of stamina and combat is, for the most part, fast paced and responsive. Jumping, rolling and blocking are all available in the players toolkit. Anyone who has played Salt and Sanctuary will feel right at home with how Unformed weaves these maneuvers into moment-to-moment gameplay. These tools are great, but not overly helpful when enemies have very little in the way startup animations before attacks. Enemies seem to dash forward and assault the player character without warning. This nearly almost always requires players to guess as apposed to respond. Guessing correctly, dodging through an enemy, and backstabbing them is an adrenaline rush, but not overly rewarding as the player isn’t getting better at the game, but simply getting lucky.

Unformed - Boss Battle 1

Offensively, the player feels strangely limited. Having a basic sword and the temporary use of both a two-handed greatsword and daggers seems interesting in theory, but I had a few issues with this system. To gain access to temporary weapons the player must allow a gauge to fill up and then upon use of these weapons it will deplete. That’s reasonable. Actually using these weapons is where everything goes downhill. Activation requires pressing up or down on the d-pad. That’s already bad design as I have to remove my hand from the left joystick and lose the ability to move my character for a moment. I don’t even like it that much in the Souls series, but the pace and feel of combat doesn’t translate here. Why not map this to the left bumper and left trigger? They aren’t used for anything except bringing up the control scheme, which can be accessed just as easily through the menu. These weapons also don’t feel powerful enough to prove useful in most cases. The daggers might be quicker then the basic sword, but don’t afford the player any more substantial damage over the course of a combo or quicker reflexes to avoid enemy assaults. Add either one of these benefits and the daggers could see some solid use during boss battles. The greatsword is slow and actually quite a bit more powerful then the other two weapons, but cleaving an enemy doesn’t even phase the weakest of them. Knocking back opponents or even stunning them would add a bit more weight and usability to this weapon. These are just suggestions though and this system may very well be refined later on in development.

Unformed - Greatsword

Unformed has a plethora of potential and Soulsborne and Salt and Sanctuary fans should take note of it’s inspirations not just in combat, but also in the similarly inspired bonfire, health flasks, and experience systems. Not to even mention the “You Died” game over screen.  There is also plans for implementing a Final Fantasy X inspired sphere grid system for customization. I know I sound down on Unformed. I’m critical because I see potential, not because I want to see the game fail. With a few tweaks to enemy and special weapon mechanics Unformed could be something special that I’m sure Blackfire Games wants to deliver. Unfortunately without the help of the Metroidvania community it doesn’t look promising that Unformed will see the light of day. With a little more then 2 days left in the campaign, only 20% of the $20,000 goal has been raised. I behoove anyone interested to take a trip over to the Kickstarter page and pledge whatever you feel comfortable with over the next 48 hours.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1737913494/unformed/description

I sincerely hope that Blackfire Games, if this first attempt at a campaign fails, doesn’t give up on this project as they have created a solid foundation for what could be something special.

Unformed - You Died

Unformed - Boss Battle 2

Planned platforms for release: PC and eventually consoles

 

 

Xeodrifter Review

Quality Metroid clones don’t come around everyday and Xeodrifter, even for it’s flaws, is one of the most fun I’ve experienced. For some the 10 dollar price tag and relatively short 3-4 hours worth of gameplay might be off putting, but Xeodrifter provides an unoriginal, but enjoyable few hours of exploring various alien worlds while it lasts.

Xeodrifter is light on story and that’s okay. Our hero’s ship gets damaged during flight and it’s up to the player to help them recover their ships lost hyper drive. Simple enough, but the challenge comes from exploring the nearby planets, fending off each one’s fauna, and collecting many power-ups and abilities along the way. It doesn’t get more Metroid esque then that, but that’s where the majority of the similarities stop and Xeodrifter offers up a few of it’s own original ideas.

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Xeodrifter’s ace in the hole is it’s customizable weapon loadouts. While checking each nook and cranny along your adventure, players are sure to stumble upon a few weapon power-up nodes. These can be used on the inventory/map screen to customize the fire pattern, speed, and power of your main weapon. This system really isn’t that deep as you only have one weapon to actually upgrade throughout the entire game and most players will quickly come to find out that simply upgrading power and rate of fire is easily the best choice for any situation. Still, it’s fun to mess around with and the ability to save up to three different loadouts is a nice touch. I do want to give the designers credit for designing the weapon power-ups in such a way as the player does feel truly empowered throughout the game if they search high and low for most or all of the upgrades.

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This is important due to Xenodrifter being difficult in the beginning stages. Probably too difficult actually. Enemies don’t do a ton of damage, but with such a low life pool starting out and very few opportunities to refill during stages, most players will die a few times starting out. I appreciate the concept of making the player feel somewhat helpless. Enemies and platforming are not particularly challenging, but I wasted a lot of time within the first hour of playing simply losing all of my progress and restarting the level due to either a couple of mistakes or not knowing what to expect around the next corner. This will turn some players away and I can’t blame them.

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Xeodrifter’s four different planets are a cool idea on paper. Each is vibrant accompanied with unique assets and color schemes, but it turns out that exploring isn’t quite as exciting as it should be. Creative level and enemy design is severally lacking. Most rooms aren’t even rooms, but linear horizontal or vertical hallways. Poorly designed map layouts force players to retread old ground for new power-up, but unlike well designed exploration based games, shortcuts aren’t sprinkled throughout each area. Backtracking is part of the genre, but never make the player navigate back through a level multiple times the exact same way. In theory the developers probably thought dividing the world up into four different, smaller areas would alleviate the need, but it isn’t fun or interesting to navigate a level and then immediately have to retrace the exact same steps in reverse just to go to another level. You’ll be doing this a lot in Xenodrifter and that’s a shame, especially for a game this short.

Status Screen

That all aside, Xeodrifter does have it’s merits. Gameplay is quick and frenetic throughout, more akin to Mega Man then Metroid. This helps exploration feel more engaging as it’s fun to zip around levels as fast as possible and many of the new abilities earned, such as a rocket jump and speed dash, help somewhat alleviate the poor level design and unlock new areas and power boosts. One of the more interesting abilities allows for players to jump in and out of certain background layers. Some of the more dastardly areas of the game will have the player taxed to speed across treacherous terrain while simultaneously hopping from background to foreground at a moments notice. It’s a novel idea that the developers of Xeodrifter first implemented in an earlier title, Mutant Mudds.

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Early game difficulty and poor map design hold Xeodrifter back from being a top-tier 2D adventure game. These issues aside, I still had a fun first playthrough. I even found myself oddly drawn toward going for 100% completion afterwards. So why is that? It comes down to the polished, fast paced run-and-gun gameplay combined with great empowerment of the player character as you explore each planet discovering that previously dangerous foes now kneel to your power. I’ll even defend the games recycled bosses as I found it interesting to see what new attacks I’d have to deal with in the next encounter. Xeodrifter may not be a must play at the full retail price of $10, but if you are looking to fill the void until Metroid: Samus Returns for an afternoon or a good sale comes around, you could do a lot worse.

+Polished, fast paced run-and-gun gameplay
+Great player empowerment
+Short gameplay time might appeal to some players
-Uninspired level design, too much forced backtracking
-Difficulty not well balanced toward the beginning
-Only 3-4 hours of gameplay

Game: Xeodrifter
Release Date: Decemeber 11th, 2014
Platforms: Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Nintendo 3DS, Steam
Developer and Publisher: Renegade Kid

Blasphemous – Kickstarter Spotlight

This week I wanted to highlight an interesting non-linear action platformer called Blasphemous that is nearing the end of it’s Kickstarter campaign and is worthy of the attention of any Metroidvania fan. One look at the pixel art and smooth animation is enough to get any fan of the genre on board with what this dark and grisly title has to offer.

Blasphemous Gameplay

Fast-paced, skilled combat and a deep and evocative narrative are the central focus of the player experience. While we don’t have a ton of narrative to go off of, its more then apparent from environmental aesthetics to character designs that players are in for dark, creepy, and truly unsettling adventure. The pixel art design and animation of enemies is phenomenal and the creative team, The Game Kitchen, deserves a lot of credit for putting such imagination, passion and talent toward creating some of the most unique enemy designs in gaming.

Blasphemous Enemy Design Example

Environmental design is also top notch. From dark dungeons, to deserts, to apocalyptic wastelands no area looks the same, but most importantly interesting and detailed. The developers even claim that environmental hazards can be used against your enemies. A pretty cool addition that could help  keep combat fresh throughout the course of a playthrough. While combat basically boils down to fast paced dodging, hack-n-slash action, players will be able to acquire various beads that can be used to customize playstyle. Not much is known about these, but creating unique beads that impart new special moves or sub-weapons would  be engrossing.

Overall there isn’t much to not like here. There are only 5 days left in the campaign and The Game Kitchen has already more then quadrupled their $50,000 dollar goal. Quite a few stretch goals have been met and if you are interested in supporting this game, team, or simply further development of metroidvania style games, then I highly advise you to check out the Kickstarter page and pledge if you are so inclined. I for one am going to back this project as I can’t help but stare in amazement at the masterfully done pixel art and quick, visceral gameplay.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/828401966/blasphemous-dark-and-brutal-2d-non-linear-platform/description

Planned platforms for release: PS4, PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Linux

 

 

Metroid: Samus Returns Amiibos and Special Edition Announced

It’s been a fantastic week to be a Metroid fan and the hits just keep coming since the announcement of both Metroid Prime 4 and Metroid: Samus Returns yesterday at E3. For further information about the announcements click here. Information has been pouring out about the collector and standard editions of the upcoming 3DS title. The standard edition will be retailing for the typical $39.99, but more interestingly is the special edition, seen below, that is shown on Gamestop for $49.99.

Metroid Samus Returns Special Edition

The special edition is to include a CD-ROM archival soundtrack, assumedly  a greatest hits of the series or a mix of tracks from both versions of Metroid II. This is a nice bonus for fans and the series-staple screw attack logo on both the cover and CD is a nice touch.

New Metroid: Samus Returns Amiibos

What’s a big Nintendo announcement without some new Amiibos? Samus Returns is getting two dedicated Amiibos upon release with a model of Samus herself and the infamous Metroid. Both contain a lot of detail and will provide some nice desk candy for anyone picking them up upon release. No word on what functionality they will provide within game or other games that will support them, but Nintendo was sure to advertise that the Metroid Amiibo in particular is “squishy.” We wouldn’t have it any other way. No release date have been mentioned as of this time, but you can start the hunt for the original Samus and Zero Suit Samus Amiibos if they aren’t in your collection already. Nintendo stated that they would be compatible with Samus Returns upon release.

Original Samus and Zero Suit Samus Amiibos

The last bit of news released by Nintendo is a developer diary video discussing new abilities and game mechanics in more detail. Explanations of the free aim, melee counter, and Aeion powers are discussed and shown via gameplay. An informative interview and a must watch for any Metroid fan itching for more information about the upcoming 3DS release.

 

Two Metroid Games Announced at E3 2017

Since the begging of the Nintendo Spotlight at E3 2017, Nintendo has blown the doors off the whole event. From the relatively short, but dense with announcements conference spotlight to their post conference Treehouse event, Nintendo has proven that they have a lot of games in the pipeline for fans to look forward to. While I’m always hopeful that a new Metroid game will be announced, the series has been basically dormant for the last 7-10 years depending upon your outlook on the series as a whole.

Well no more! During the conference a short teaser trailer for Metroid Prime 4 was on display that showed off a logo and a message stating it is currently in development for the Nintendo Switch. Seems a fitting time as any to announce a new game in the wildly popular series no less then 10 years after the release of Metroid Prime Corruption. No release date was mentioned, but its just good to know that Nintendo is finally giving this wonderful IP some attention that it sorely deserves.

An announcement for a new installment of the Prime series was enough to get people talking, but Nintendo doesn’t seem to be resting on their laurels this year and also announced Metroid: Samus Returns, a remake of the GameBoy game of the same moniker, for the 3DS during their post-conference Treehouse event. Samus Returns looks to be a 2.5D take on classic Metroid gameplay and will find Samus hunting down Metroids with familiar and new moves alike. The best part is that this game is going to be playable on September 15th of this year. Thats only 3 months away and it’s clear that Nintendo has put a lot of love into the project as the combat, enemies, and environments look amazing on the 3DS.

Nintendo really stepped up at this year’s E3 and honestly blew everyone else out of the water. The conference was all about games and Nintendo had some seriously great ones to announce. I’ll continue to keep you informed of future updates from Nintendo on these titles and check back for my analysis of the Metroid: Samus Returns trailer at some point this week.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Demo Gameplay Analysis

 

Thanks to Gematsu’s Youtube channel the community has access to 12 minutes of gameplay from this year’s playable demo at E3. There’s a lot to take in, but it looks like the development team has brought back many more staple weapons and abilities that should make fans feel right at home.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - New Environment

As mentioned in my previous post on the E3 Trailer, the level on showcase for the demo is a combination of a church and clock tower. Much of the platforming is far more vertically focused than last year’s demo and is the perfect environment to empower players with a double jump.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Church Gameplay

A handful of new skills were seen in action, including a familiar  and some old favorites. Miriam can be seen leveraging returning staples such as bones and spears from range, as well as summoning speedy canine and hopping ape companions. These abilities are by no means game-changers, but they certainly provide interesting additions to a player’s toolkit.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Clock Tower and Familiar

The most interesting was the unveiling of the first summon-able familiar, the Dullahammer Head. A common enemy found throughout the church, the Dullahammer Head doesn’t operate too differently then your average Medusa Head, but if the player is lucky they can bring one along on their journey. Familiars have existed in the Castlevania series since Symphony of the Night, but haven’t seen much use since as they are rarely powerful enough to consider. From the gameplay we can see that this might still be the case, as Miriam’s new friend rarely attacks and dishes out fairly poor numbers.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Underground Cave Environment

This bothered me at first, but there are a couple of things to consider. Outside of Symphony of the Night, familiars always took up the slot of a potentially more useful skill, but in Bloodstained they have their own dedicated slot. One could simply just consider them a bit of free extra damage and cosmetic flair. The developers also haven’t stated whether skills will be able to be powered up via farming or experience gain. If so, familiars may have the opportunity to evolve and become more aggressive and provide unique boons to the player. Time will tell, but they are certainly one of the features of Bloodstained that has me most curious.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Leather Whip

All of the new weapons showcased in the E3 trailer had me excited enough, but there are several others that didn’t make the cut. Obviously the leather whip stole the show and appeared to have some of the best range, speed, and attack area of all the weapons. The remaining weapons seem to act much like you would expect. The claymore is slow, but powerful  and can attack enemies directly above Miriam. Spears provide superior range and the rapier provides quick, close range bursts of damage. The demo does a great job at balancing the weapons so that players are encouraged to try them all out as apposed to replacing previously attained armaments quickly.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Harpy  and Summoned Dog Skill

(Confirmed weapons thus far)

  • Shortsword
  • Kung Fu Shoes
  • Leather Whip
  • Katana
  • Rapier
  • Claymore
  • Spear
  • Knife

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Bloodless Boss

The final boss, Bloodless, challenges Miriam as she rudely interrupts bath time. Bloodless has a plethora of blood based magical attack at her disposal along with the telekinetic control of two umbrellas that dance around the room.The combination of the two give the player plenty to consider while trying to get in a few hits after each casting. Of most interest is her ability to evoke a blood rain that covers half the room and deals heavy damage to the player if they are unwise enough to stick around and enjoy the drizzle. Vacating the area is one option, but the more noteworthy strategy is to take cover under an umbrella and get in a few free strikes in the process. This battle is more technically challenging on the player then the sea monster from last year’s demo and is a fitting testing ground for all that the player has learned.

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It’s safe to say that I can’t wait to get my hands on this demo and more fully explore all it has to offer, assuming the studio provides this to backers of the project after E3 has finished. A release date can’t come soon enough, but I’m willing to wait for a game that hopefully surpasses even the best that Castlevania had to offer in its prime. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter get to get updates on the status of development throughout E3 and up till release.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer Analysis

E3 2017 is well underway and there has been a handful of surprises already, but my most anticipated game of 2018 recently had a new trailer drop and thought I’d take some time to do a bit of analysis on some of the details. Checkout the trailer below.

The most promising aspect of the trailer has to be the preview of many new environments, hopefully meaning that Igarashi and his team are now working on vastly expanding the scope of playable game areas. Each area has a lot of depth and surprising amounts of detail considering environmental backgrounds are designed to be somewhat randomly generated. Most of the trailer shows off snippets of gameplay from the E3 demo this year that showcases what appears to be a church and clock tower of sorts. A must for a spiritual successor to Castlevania.

More interesting then even the new environments is a short showcase of a few new weapons and abilities. First and foremost, that was a whip in the trailer and it appears to work much like any other weapon at this time. There is no indication in the gameplay of being able to flail around the whip after an attack, but I can’t imagine the developers not adding that feature down the line. Katana and rapier weapons were also shown off and allow for more graceful and rapid attacks.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - New Environment

No shortage of new abilities were shown and the most interesting was our first introduction to familiars. Familiars are their own spell slot in the players inventory and there were none available to play around with in the 2016 demo, but early on in the trailer we can see our heroine being followed by a strange looking creature that would appear to be exactly that. Not much else was seen, but we can expect that the familiar either boosts our characters stats or performs occasional attacks as seen from familiars in the Castlevania series. Other standard skills like the ever useful double-jump and several varieties of projectiles made the cut as well. The skills shown in the trailer are less interesting then what was available in last year’s demo, but I’m glad to see the return of several fan favorites and some familiar faces to use them on.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Clock Tower and Familiar

Rounding out the trailer was a glimpse at a new boss and it certainly doesn’t disappoint. After intruding on a relaxing  blood bath, our heroine is faced with what appears to be a vampire evoking deadly blood magic. While appearing to be a fairly standard boss encounter, there does seem to be an interesting interaction between the boss’s magic and floating parasols, allowing for the player to take cover during certain segments of the battle. The animation of various attacks is also quite impressive.

Bloodstained E3 2017 Trailer - Boss Fight

This year’s trailer thankfully proves to me that the Bloodstained team is making great strides toward building the game we were promised and that the fans have been craving. For one I’d rather Bloodstained continue to be delayed and give Igarashi and his team the time to polish and expand upon what they’ve already shared with the community. Check back tomorrow for further analysis as I cover some E3 demo gameplay in more detail and continue to cover up coming news on more announced Metroidvanias and related games.

 

 

Mega Man X (SNES) Review

 

An Action Packed Game That Proves That Mega Man Has More To Offer Even After 6 Classic Titles! 

The Mega Man series is one that needs no introduction and it’s a shame that the legacy has come to standstill in the past years with no end in sight, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the copious amounts of titles that have existed since the days of the NES. Up until 1994 the NES saw Mega Man 1-6 and while all good games, the series was losing steam due to the release of the SNES  in 1991. Due to this Capcom decided to revitalize the series with a re-imagining of a new Mega Man. Mega Man X came out of the gate with everything that series fans had grown to love, but just bigger, better, and with everything we could have hoped for.

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Gameplay

Starting with the controls Mega Man X just built upon the foundation of the originals with responsive movement and pixel perfect level and enemy design. X feels like an extension of yourself …the controls are that solid! As far as the actions that X can perform only two have really been added, but they change gameplay in ways you can’t imagine until you experience it for yourself. The first is a boosted jump. Early on in the game you will get an upgrade to your suit that will allow X to dash, much like Mega Man’s classic slide from the older games. This also allows you to hit the slide and jump button simultaneously for a longer jump. This allows for many more options during platforming and boss battles. On top of this you can also slide down and jump up or off walls. This adds an amazing new dimension to enemy encounters and the bosses have been given clever arsenals of attacks to promote use of these new functions.

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You will also have access to the old staple of running, jumping and shooting your buster, X’s arm mounted weapon. This weapon can be shot rapid fire or charged up for a couple of seconds to unleash a much more powerful shot. For everything that Mega Man X changes it still keeps true to its roots and has you facing off against 8 robot masters, except this time they are called Mavericks and they are all inspired by animals. At the end of each level you will face off against the Maverick leader of that area and if defeated you will gain a new weapon from them, generally inspired by one of their own attacks. Each has a limited number of uses, but can be charged with power-ups found throughout each level or dropped from an enemy. Each one if fun to use, many allow you to collect power-ups that were otherwise inaccessible and if used wisely can really make certain parts of the game quite a bit easier. Each boss also has a weakness to one of these weapons. If you use the correct one you can make some of the more challenging boss fights much more manageable. While these bosses aren’t the toughest of the franchise they do pose a fair challenge, but more importantly each is well crafted with unique movesets, personality, and gimmicks

Gameplay 2

To add to the replayability and sense of character growth there are power-ups hidden in each level. These can range from heart tanks that permanently increase X’s health bar, energy tanks that can be charged and used to refill health during battle, and even different upgrades to X’s body armor. One in particular really adds a spice of depth to your weaponry and allows you to charge up not only your buster even further than before, but also your special weapons giving them great new effects and even completely different uses. It’s one of my favorite parts of the game and I really enjoyed replaying levels and experimenting with these options.

Level design in Mega Man X is nothing short of extraordinary. No two levels are similar and you will navigating levels via mine carts, flying platforms, conveyor belts, and water cyclones all while being assaulted from all sides by well crafted enemies that truly compliment the level layouts. Honestly I can’t think of a single point where the action lets up and I felt bored. Levels aren’t drug out and are short and to the point. Levels should be fun and interesting to navigate and Mega Man X does not disappoint.

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I do have one complaint about this game and that’s with the last couple of levels after eliminating the 8 original Mavericks. These levels are not bad by any means, but they don’t have the same love and creativity put into them that is so apparent with the previous ones and they just use rehashes of previous enemies. It simply feels like the later levels were rushed. It’s a shame really as it’s the only blemish on what could be considered a perfect game.

Graphics

The character designs and attention to detail in each level really show off what the SNES was truly capable of and that’s lush, detailed pixel art. From the color palette, crisp animation, and sense of speed Mega Man X’s visuals will grab you and hold you till the end. One thing that I can’t credit Capcom enough for is the creativity in altering levels based upon your progress in the game. For example: if you finish Chill Penguin’s stage first before venturing to the Flame Mammoth stage the dangerous lava flow below each platform and conveyor belt is frozen over allowing for safe passage. Another great example is Spark Mandrills stage. After returning to this level after completing it and Storm Eagle’s stage the level will be much darker as if there has been a loss of power to the factory and at the beginning you can see the remnants of Storm Eagle’s airship strewn about. This detail really show just how much Capcom understood video games and what it took to make them great back in the 16-bit era.

Chameleon Stage 6

Music/Sound

The opening theme to the intro stage is still one of the most iconic music tracks in gaming. Very few games can capture the excitement of how action packed and fun your journey is going to be 10 seconds into a level with such a well arranged, adrenaline pumping tune. While not all the songs live up to this same quality they are all very well done and set you in the mood to run and gun a few hundred robots. Each weapon, enemy, explosion and jump sounds perfect and feels awesome.

Verdict

Mega Man X was one of the very first games I played for my SNES and it completely blew me away and the fact that it still can to this day really says something about it. It’s a classic in every sense of the word and every gamer and non-gamer alike should play it at least once and appreciate it for what it really is: a damn fun game!

Score: 95/100

Release:  1994
Platform(s): Super Nintendo
Players: 1

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Mega Man X Box ArtMegaMan-X-Box-ArtBack

 

Castlevania (NES) Review

A Grand Romp Amongst the Undead and Dracula’s Other Ghoulish Minions!

Back in 1987 a little known game called Castlevania was published by Konami for the Nintendo Entertainments System. From the opening theme to the gothic tapestry of environments you will be exploring, Castlevania just screams fun.

Gameplay

Like most games of the 8-bit era, Castlevania is a pretty short and to the point experience. 6 levels comprise your adventure to hunt down the Dark Lord himself and can be finished in the course of a couple hours. Gameplay consists of basic platforming and using your trusty whip to send all enemies back to hell where they belong. You also have access to 5 subweapons; knife, holy water, stopwatch, cross, and axe. Each subweapon is useful in different situations. For example: the axe is great at taking out airborne enemies such as crows and flying medusa heads. The cross and holy water are amazing for dealing with tough bosses due to their ability to hit them multiple times per use. Subweapons require a certain number of hearts to use so you can’t rely on them most of the time. Hearts can be dropped from enemies, but in general are found in candles scattered throughout each level which can be destroyed using your whip.

Stage7Gameplay

Music

The haunting and blood pumping tunes are absolutely incredible when you consider that they are created from simple “blips” and “bloops” that were simply limitations of the hardware. Konami deserves the utmost credit for composing what could argueably be considered the greatest soundtrack of the 8-bit era. The music and sound design matches each and every level, boss, and action perfectly resulting in audio bliss.

Difficulty

I mentioned earlier that the game’s 6 levels could be completed in the matter of a couple of hours, but let’s get real. This game is tough. Real tough! Levels 1-4 are hard but very doable with 1 or 2 continues by a seasoned gamer. Once you hit level 5 get ready to have your skills questioned. Running a gauntlet of the games most difficult enemies and then finish off with a battle to the death with Death himself. Every attempt and every continue used will test your patience to the limit until you become so acclimated to the level that you actually make it to the end boss without getting hit. Unfortunately that isn’t enough to save you because death is rather difficult in his own right flying across the play area and sending sickles from all directions. This wouldn’t be so bad if the control of your character wasn’t so stiff. Jumping is the biggest culprit here. You had better be sure you want to jump when you hit the A button because you are now completely committed for the next few seconds. You can’t redirect midair and this can be a real pain when there are several flying enemies out for your head.

Stage10Gameplay

Verdict

So while the levels are fairly short and sweet, there is a lot of replay value due to the difficulty at hand here. Don’t let that fact scare you away from a truly classic and quality experience though. The music and gameplay will keep you wanting to come back time and again even after completion.

Score: 90/100

Release Date: May 1987
Systems: Nintendo Entertainment System, Gameboy Advance, PC
Players: 1

Indivisible Prototype Review

Indivisible Prototype is actually an alpha build of an upcoming, fully funded IndieGoGo campaign for the game Indivisible. Indivisible looks to be a game to keep on our radars as it advertises itself to bring together gameplay elements from Metroid and Valkyrie Profile. An interesting hybrid indeed. One thing to note when looking at the following screenshots is the art style. If you followed the campaign for Skullgirls several years ago, it should come as no surprise that Indivisible’s character designs, while considerably less silly, would fit right at home in that title with it’s gorgeous and large sprites. That’s because the development studio, Lab Zero, is bringing Indivisible to life with a little help from 505 games.

Indivisible-3

But an alpha is a showcase of the gameplay and concept and how does Indivisible fair thus far? Surprisingly well actually. While the systems are a bit limited at the moment, I can’t help but see loads of potential in this interesting mash-up.

 

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As the main character Ajna, the player will be be navigating a few small temples as one would in any other 2D platformer, but with the twist of also finding tools/weapons that will allow for further world traversal much like a standard metroidvania title. During my 40 minute play session with the prototype I only ran across an axe, which served not only as a great weapon upgrade, but also as a means to destroy vines and scale walls. This made exploration much more varied, rewarding, and I can just imagine all the clever puzzles the developers could devise to require the player to use multiple tools on the fly.

Indivisible-1

Ajna can use these items, as well as her fists, to attack enemies throughout each level, but enemies aren’t thwarted so easily. Think of attacking an enemy as gaining the first strike on an unsuspecting victim. Wack an enemy and watch as Indivisible fluidly morphs from a 2D platformer to a real-time rpg combat scenario. It’s great that gameplay isn’t bogged down by a transitional period.

 

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From here the player must manage each character’s action bars and battle commands. During the prototype, Ajna will gather three companions and each is mapped to one of the four main buttons on a controller. If you want a particular character to attack press their corresponding button. This gives the player the ability to attack with multiple characters at a time for big damage. Combine that with directional inputs that can alter attacks, a party shared stamina gauge that can be used to guard and perform especially powerful moves, and it’s obvious that Lab Zero put a lot of thought into combat. While it starts dreadfully simple, I started to have a lot of fun timing attacks and my defenses against some of the more nasty encounters.

Indivisible-10

Indivisible has a lot going for it and I’m hopeful that the gaming community will hear more about it’s development life cycle throughout 2016. The prototype can be downloaded for free on the Playstation 4 andI highly consider it worth a look. Also, check out the IndieGoGo page at:

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/indivisible-rpg-from-the-creators-of-skullgirls#/

Zyloc

 

 

Salt and Sanctuary Review

2-D Dark Souls….Yeah I’m On Board With That

SnS - Death Screen

As you create your character and emerge into gameplay on an old ship dripping with despair it’s no surprise that SKA Studios has perfectly melded their classic hand drawn art style with engrossing Dark Souls and Metroidvania esque gameplay as promised. What might be seen as a cash in toward the popularity of the Souls series by outsiders, it doesn’t take more then a handful of minutes of gameplay to understand what makes Salt and Sanctuary more of a tribute and excellent time killer while fans wait so maddeningly for Dark Souls 3. That’s not to say SnS should simply be cast aside, because it  holds up on all of it’s own merits and true fans will be revisiting this title for months, if not years, to come.

Salt and Sanctuaries world is cleverly designed and intricately detailed throughout each of it’s dark corners, which incidentally are all very much worth exploring during my 20 hour long quest. The dark and gritty art style that SKA Studios is known for sets a somber tone, but also goes leaps and bounds above the studios previously excellent works such as; Vampire Kiss and The Dishwasher. With great detail put into every environment and enemy taking up inhabitants, each locations in this cohesive world has it’s own story and unique aesthetics. While most music is simply ambient noise, it certainly helps amplify the importance of audio cues while platforming, but most importantly during combat.

SnS - Mage

But how does a 2-D Dark Souls game play exactly?  While the combat certainly isn’t as deep as a Souls game. One can’t argue that thought and consideration was put into trying to capture as much of the visceral combat flow within SnS as possible. Movement and attacks are all still dependent upon your equipment choices and of course stat allocation. If your character is a magic flinging wizard don’t expect them to be able to don heavy armor right out of the gate without clear and obvious negative side affects to basic movement. Each weapon class has different combos and damage potential, but where SnS falls a little flat is in the individuality of the weapons. Each feels the same, for the most part, and all the new interesting weapons created from bosses or found in the world are no more then a bigger damage number and a new aesthetic. Thankfully all of the usual weapons classes one would expect are here and represented well. If you want to be a quick and nimble assassin go ahead and use a dagger or short sword. Decked out in heavy armor and want to pack a slow, melodic punch? Go for a mace or greatsword. There are off-hand weapons aplenty to compliment any playstyle. Magic, crossbows and shields all add deeper customization to your loadout and add tactical advantages during various encounters. With my time in SnS I played a greatsword wielding mage and a classic whip wielding hunter. Both felt unique and I can see tons of different options of skills and weapons that players can tailor their dream character with.

SnS - Dex 2

Character development is treated somewhat like Dark Souls in that when defeating enemies they drop currency for the player to use. Instead of souls, it’s salt this time around. Yeah I know. Who would have guessed? Salt is used to level up and to purchase boss material crafted weapons. This makes it super valuable, but don’t go around hording it for long periods of time because upon death you will lose your salt. You can regain it by getting back to where you died and eliminating a specific enemy near your death location, but if you die before recovery it will be gone forever. It can be quite disheartening to lose your first couple of stashes of salt, but quickly you become less and less attached as you find that death will be common and find that salt is easier to come by as you progress. Unlike the Souls series, SnS also has gold which drops much like salt, but is used to purchase consumables and basic equipment. It’s puzzling why both currencies were included as gold seemed to become redundant as I came to the end of my first playthrough.

SnS - Level Grid

Spending salt to level up rewards the player with dark pearls. These are used to progress your character by purchasing nodes on a grid that will feel quite familiar to players of either Final Fantasy X or Path of Exile. Depending upon the class you choose at the beginingin of the game you will have a pre-determined position on the grid, but are free to move about as you see fit. Each sector of the grid is tailored to different playstyles and dipping into several can create some interesting hybrid classes. It’s a cool freedom, but isn’t quite as interesting as the previous two mentioned games. 95% of the nodes are simple stat increases and the other 5% govern your ablility to use certain equipment, magic, and healing items. There’s nothing particularly flashy to build toward, but all the elements are here and well thought out to allow for relatively deep character development through several play sessions.

SnS - Item Shop

Traversing Salt and Sanctuaries deeply interconnected world and discovering the bevvy of secrets along the way will keep players invested just as much as the quick and satisfying combat. You will find shortcuts back to other environments regularly and while this isn’t nearly as rewarding as it was in Dark Souls, it does cohesively bring the world together and doesn’t create the idea that each area is just another ‘zone’ to explore. Progression will often lead to new acrobatic feats that will have the player defying gravity and dashing through the air with ease. These abilities open up new paths and little goodies hidden in previously explored areas, but I often found myself disappointed in how few of these extra areas there were in comparison to other games of the Metroidvania genre. Even more important then finding new areas and loot, is finding safe havens known as sanctuaries. This whole game title is coming together nicely now! Treat these havens much like bonfires or continue points that the player can use to level up and restock on supplies. A unique feature is the ability to customize these sanctuaries with with helpful NPCs. Throughout your journey you will find stones that will allow you a finite ability to summon permanent characters to your sanctuary of choice. This can be a huge boon as you can setup important shops and fast travel features within frequently visited sanctuaries. A certain stone will even allow you to play cooperatively with a friend in local multiplayer. This isn’t necessarily the most easily interpreted, but it’s a cool touch and the games difficulty will change to compensate for the extra help.

Characters can also align with creeds found throughout the world. These act much like covenants or factions, but with far less interesting features. When players are aligned with different creeds they are asked to seek certain items dropped from various monsters. These items are in turn traded in to level your devotion with said creed. Increasing your devotion can increase the amount of healing items your character can tote and at certain levels vendors may add new wares. Extra healing items are certainly worthy rewards and mages will find several of the most powerful spells in the game this way, but outside of these rewards there isn’t much incentive for players to experiment with various creeds. It feels like a missed opportunity. Fortunately farming most of these items is not difficult, but some creeds will take some serious exploring on the players part to locate.

SnS - Sanctuary

There are a bewildering amount of similarities between Dark Souls and Salt and Sanctuary that SKA Studios managed to fit in without making it feel ultimately forced. Gameplay mechanics, character customization, visual and audio inspired atmosphere, and even character created messages strewn about the world. It’s all here and the removal of a dimension does not take away from the experience in most cases. Combat and item nuances aren’t quite as deep as the Souls series, but Salt and Sanctuary hit all the right chords for me and while the difficulty and learning curve is certainly present, fans of the genre should feel good knowing that the game is fair and an even better adaptation of a 2-D Dark Souls then I could have hoped for.

SnS Inventory
+Rock solid action and gameplay
+Difficult, but fair
+Great atmosphere and level design
+$20 dollars for a quality 20+ hour experience is a steal
-Creeds left a lot to be desired
-Not as many hidden secrets in previously explored areas was dissappointing

Game: Salt And Sanctuary
Release Date: March 15, 2016
Platforms: Playstation 4, Vita, and soon to be PC
Developer and Publisher: SKA Studios

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Here at BreakableWalls.com we celebrate our sense of adventure and obsession with 2D non-linear adventure games, aka metroidvanias. Strap on your high jump boots and join us for daily reviews and previews of popular titles and others that are hidden just behind the cracks.