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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.

 

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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.

 

 

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

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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