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Undertale who? photo
Undertale who?

Hollow Knight could be the next surprise indie hit

Such style. Much metroidvania. Wow.
Nov 20
// Jed Whitaker
The metroidvania-esque Hollow Knight took the Internet by storm yesterday, making it to the front page of reddit at least twice, and it could potentially be the next surprise indie hit following Undertale's recent succe...
Indivisible photo

Indivisible crowdfunding campaign extended

About $500K left to go
Nov 13
// Jordan Devore
It's not over yet. Lab Zero Games has secured a 20-day extension on its Indiegogo campaign for Indivisible, a stylish side-scrolling RPG with shades of Valkyrie Profile and Super Metroid. As it now stands, Lab Zero has raised...

Cave Story creator's Kero Blaster coming to Steam

Go play the free prequels now!
Oct 14
// Jed Whitaker
If you're unfamiliar with Kero Blaster even though it has been available for over a year, it might be because it was never released on Steam, but that all changes on November 11. Kero Blaster was created by Pixel, the ma...
Dust: An Elysian Tail photo
Dust: An Elysian Tail

Dust: An Elysian Tail, a fantastic metroidvania, is coming to iOS

'Very soon'
Oct 07
// Chris Carter
Dust: An Elysian Tail, released originally on XBLA in 2012, is one of my favorite metroidvanias in recent memory. The fact that it was developed by one guy, basically, is still insane to me, given how deep the game is mechani...

Indivisible photo

Skullgirls dev's metroidvania RPG Indivisible is looking pretty dang good

Up on Indiegogo, with a playable demo
Oct 05
// Darren Nakamura
Back in July we got a barebones announcement that Skullgirls developer Lab Zero Games has been working on a role-playing game called Indivisible and that it would begin a crowdfunding campaign for it late in September. It's ...

Review: Aerannis

Sep 22 // Jed Whitaker
Aerannis (PC)Developer: ektomarch Publisher: ektomarch Released: September 15, 2015MSRP: $9.99Rig: Intel Core i7-3930K @ 3.2 GHz, 32GB DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GTX 980, Windows 10 64-bit, Intel 750 SSD After receiving an email from one of the developers stating you play as a transgender character, I couldn't help but give Aerannis a chance. I was rather surprised how well the Kickstarted game was able to mesh the adventure genre with a stealthy metroidvania. Traversing different parts of the cyberpunk world to find and complete missions -- mostly consisting of either stealthy sneaking, hits, or investigating -- was pretty satisfying and never felt dull.  The formula is overall pretty simple: Talk to your robot buddy / boss / NPC and receive a mission with directions, follow the directions till you find an arrow in front of described building, do the mission, rinse and repeat. The world isn't exactly huge, but save stations allow you to fast travel between them, thankfully cutting down on dull backtracking that many games in the same genre suffer from.  Missions are all relatively similar even if the goal at the end can be a bit different: Going from point A to point B while hiding or blasting enemies until you reach the goal. But thankfully new mechanics, weapons, and enemies are introduced along the way to keep things interesting, such as the abilities to hang from ledges, jump off walls, and drop varying types of bombs. In a few levels you'll also be tasked with taking down giant boss monsters, which are always satisfying and unique.  [embed]311778:60469:0[/embed] As someone who typically hates stealth sections in games, I actually found the stealth missions fairly enjoyable as they are a bit more action-oriented than games like Hitman. I found myself never having to wait more than a few seconds for an enemy to mill about allowing me to either sneak by or grab them from behind with the decision of instantly killing them or taking them hostage, with any option being equally satisfying.  Politics: this game has them and we have to talk about them. Seeing as you play as a transgender female in a world where men don't exist because... well... the game doesn't really ever explain this, nor does it explain how trans females exists with no males. Are babies born male and forced to be female? How are babies born? I feel like the developers had some kind of agenda with the game's story but never truly make it 100% clear one way or another, which is probably intentional. I imagine that players of every belief will be able to feel like Aerannis story falls into what they think if they wanted.  For instance, one section has you enter a part of the city known as TERF Turf, where radical feminists are in control and rally against "snowflakes" as they call them, a shortened version of the pejorative "special snowflakes" which is often used to slur transgender people. TERF is an acronym for "Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists" by the way, so it makes sense that the sign outside their part of town says "you must be this cis to enter" with a picture of a tampon. The game treats TERFs as the main villains even going as far as referring to them as Nazis, though without directly saying the word. So many people will take this as meaning "excluding trans people is bad" while others will surely interrupt it as "all feminists are bad," a distinction that is never directly made. My biggest gripe with the game is it never really says anything. Sure it talks about feminism, transgender people, and diversity, but what is the message it is trying to convey? In the end the whole thing kind of feels like the ramblings of a conspiracy theorist who finds the most radical outlier of a group and makes an example of them for what a said group must be like, when that isn't necessarily true. I have a hunch the developers' intentions was to try to hide a wolf in sheep's clothing or apply gotcha tactics by having players play as a transgender character while preaching to them about the dangers of feminism -- insert laughter here -- and it really just never works, mostly because the writing is less than great and the message isn't clear. For a game having two endings, neither really had much to say or made sense to the context of the rest of the game. One ending has the main character reveal a secret twist they had been keeping the entire game, which would be fine if their internal dialogue wasn't presented at times, which made the ending feel jarring and disconnected from the rest of the experience. The other ending just goes completely off the rails that had me audibly exclaim "What the fuck!?" Maybe that is part of the beauty of Aerannis -- aside from its crisp pixel art, matching soundtrack and solid gameplay -- is that it is like staring into the abyss of the mind of a conspiracy theorist, or any random internet hive-mind; it might not make much sense, it might be completely off kilter with the real world, and it might be the complete opposite of what I believe, but it was still good for a laugh. Aerannis is a beautiful, diverse metroidvania with solid mechanics mixed in with some tin-foil hat madness, and regardless of your political views you should give it a shot; you might just enjoy it, I know I did. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Review: Aerannis photo
Transgender Feminist Illuminati Blues
In a cyberpunk future where men cease to exist, a trans woman and for-hire assassin is fighting the feminist Illuminati that runs the government. Along the way she encounters shape shifting monsters that often are shaped like...

Headlander reveal photo
Headlander reveal

Double Fine reveals 'retro-futuristic' metroidvania Headlander

That's using your noggin
Aug 27
// Darren Nakamura
Double Fine Productions rarely retreads ground with its games, so it comes as no surprise that its next big title is not Psychonauts 2 (like it should be) but is instead a 2D adventure about a disembodied head who can attach ...
Ori expansion photo
Ori expansion

Ori and the Blind Forest is getting an expansion

For Xbox One and Windows 10
Aug 06
// Jordan Devore
Ori and the Blind Forest is one of my favorite games on Xbox One. It looks, sounds, and plays magnificently. I'm surprised and delighted it even got made, and that goes double for its commercial success. The game was "already...
Bloodstained photo

Bloodstained will feature Microsoft crossplay, new character revealed

Dual sword wielding demon hunter shown
Aug 04
// Laura Kate Dale
If you buy Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night on Xbox One or Windows 10, you'll be able to interact with your friends on other Microsoft-owned platforms. Revealed at Microsoft's gamescom press briefing, we also got our first g...
Iconoclasts photo

Iconoclasts finally gets a release announcement: Steam and Sony systems in 2016

Also drops the 'the' from its name
Jul 29
// Darren Nakamura
We have had our eyes on The Iconoclasts for a while now. It started development in 2010, and we have covered whispers of updates sporadically since then, including a rad mecha-worm boss fight using rail transport last year. G...

Review: Odallus: The Dark Call

Jul 16 // Jed Whitaker
Odallus: The Dark Call (PC)Developer: JoyMasherPublisher: JoyMasherMSRP: $14.99Released: July 15, 2015 Haggis's son has been taken by darkness, his village has been set ablaze, and his Gods have abandoned him, so he does what any father would do in this situation, brandish a sword and go on a killing spree. Along the way Haggis picks up axes, spears and torches to add to his arsenal of demon-dispatching weaponry; axes go in a straight line and torches ignite the ground much like throwing knives and holy water from Castlevania respectively. These sub weapons can be found and replenished via various chests along the way or at shops set up throughout the land in exchange for orbs enemies drop. Knowing when to use these sub weapons are key to success in Odallus, especially at the start of the journey as your sword is rather weak in comparison. Certain enemies and obstacles fall faster to sub weapons.  A weapon bag dictates how many of each weapon can be carried, luckily it can be upgraded by finding upgrades hidden throughout the landscape. Health, sword, and armor upgrades can also be found hidden in hard to reach places. Odallus is anything but hard as I was able to breeze through it in just over four hours. Health is carried over between levels, only being refreshed by finding health pickups in chests or by purchasing them at shops. Lives can be purchased at shops but there is little reason to as running out only causes you to restart the current level at the beginning instead of the latest checkpoint. The only real difficult part of the game is the final boss whose attack pattern was seemingly random and extremely cheap: the only way I was able to defeat him was to be equally cheap and abuse the final armor upgrades and their ability to make myself invulnerable for a brief moment while spamming attacks. Bosses in general are pretty easy, having predictable patterns and falling quickly to sub weapons or upgraded swords which is a shame because they all look so cool, mostly like hellish H. R. Giger creations. I found myself purposefully not being aggressive in boss fights just so I could see what attacks the bosses had in their arsenals. Like the bosses, many of the levels look awesome, even if some of them rely on Castlevania tropes such as a burning village or a dark forest. Graphically Odallus looks like an NES game, which isn't a bad thing, as the game honestly feels like a spiritual successor to the NES Castlevania games. While there are some commonplace level locations for this type of game, there are also some that mix up the formula a bit such as underwater levels and even a mine cart level. Riding in a mine cart, ducking stalactites, and jumping over other mine carts and gaps in the track are just as fun as they were in Donkey Kong Country, albeit a bit easier. The underwater levels play generally the same as the other levels, though jumping gets a bit of additional height. Jumping higher underwater when wearing armor may not make much sense, but it doesn't take away from the experience.  Each level has multiple paths to progression, though a lot of times they end up looping back to where they started in clever ways that prevent the need for backtracking. If you're like me and you always wonder which path you should go and worry about missing something, Odallus is pretty good about making sure you end up back in that area for one reason or another.   One thing I've never liked about metroidvania style games is the tedious, boring backtracking that is forced upon you if you're a completionist. Luckily here you're able to use a Ghosts 'n Goblins-esque map to jump between levels. The level selection screen also provides details on how many secrets are left to collect, if the boss is alive, and if you've unlocked the alternate routes. No levels are really secret as they are marked on the map when you unlock the levels that they can be accessed from. I had to repeat a couple of levels maybe two times to clean up on some secrets I'd missed, but for the most part your time isn't wasted to try to artificially extend the playtime.  Traversing levels at first feel mostly like a classic platformer; You have one jump, and getting hit knocks you back a bit, but unlike those games of old there are no bottomless instant-kill pits to be found. While cheap deaths plagued classic Castlevania games making them "NES hard," I was very pleased Odallus didn't follow in their footsteps. Another nice feature is the ability to grab ledges and pull yourself up; this leads to some interesting platforming and puzzles that I won't spoil here. Eventually you'll gain the ability to double jump, dash, and perform other actions to help you blaze through levels, though this is late into the game. Typically I'm team whip, but Odallus goes team sword and it feels great. Slicing enemies into pieces doesn't feel much different than using a whip, what is different though is the ability to parry an enemy's projectiles. Hitting a fireball or other projectile out of the air with a sword just feels awesome, Odallus definitely rewards aggressive play.  The entirety of the story plays out in an opening cutscene, hidden collectible runes, boss dialogue, and an ending cutscene. There are a few instances where the localization seemed a bit off on grammar, but it wasn't unintelligible. Just like the visuals, the music is very much NES-inspired. While the chiptune music is all right it certainly isn't as catchy as the music found in actual games available for the NES. Sound effects are seemingly more Genesis-influenced, as they sound more realistic and are often times brief voice clips much like Splatterhouse's effects. Odallus does nothing extraordinary in the audio department but what it does do works well enough. Only lasting four easy-to-complete hours and having a few minor localization issues are really the only hangups I had with Odallus, which aren't all that bad. Though JoyMasher has promised that a harder veteran mode will be made available in a few weeks, I just wish it were included at launch as this was a rare case of game being a bit too easy. Regardless of a few minor gripes, Odallus: The Dark Call is a worthy addition to any metroidvania fan's library and is worth the asking price. Do yourself a favor and play it. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Odallus Review photo
The best Castlevania game in years
JoyMasher, the Brazilian team behind Odallus: The Dark Call doesn't have a ton of games under its belt, but that doesn't mean it can't produce quality content. Somehow the developer has done something Konami hasn't ...

A Mini Falafel Adventure photo
A Mini Falafel Adventure

Freeware metroidvania A Mini Falafel Adventure playable now

Get that Game Boy aesthetic
Jul 07
// Darren Nakamura
Look, we're all still a little peeved that Nintendo has neglected to make a 2D Metroid game in more than 10 years. However, while Nintendo has consistently jilted its Samus fans, we have been spoiled for choice in terms of o...

Five great (not) Metroid games you can play right now

Jun 19 // Jonathan Holmes
Guacamelee! Available on just about every console but the 3DS, Guacamelee! is more of a brawler than any Metroid title to date, but if you think of protagonists Juan and Tostada as luchador versions of Captain Falcon and Zero Suit Samus from Smash Bros., then it's a little easier to take as a Metroid-like. There are actually fan mods that can make that kind of thing a reality, but only on the PC version. The good news is: every version of Guacamelee! has tons of action, atmosphere, and weapons-as-tools-for-exploration gameplay, just like Metroid! There are even statues of Chozo and Metroid-looking characters in a few places, one of which grants the power to morph into a "chicken ball," which you use to crawl through some tight spaces and lay "egg bombs." Still skeptical? Our own Chris Carter recently said "I think Guacamelee! is literally the most Metroid out of all of those games," so there you go.   Environmental Station Alpha At first, I was only interested in Environmental Station Alpha because it reminded me of Metroid. More specifically, it reminded me on Minitroid, the now abandoned Metroid fan game that seemed to be the perfect antidote for all the ways Other M made me poisoned. Now I don't dislike Other M as much as some. The game turned Samus into an emotionally stunted nerd, but I can relate with nerds, so no problem for me there. Most of my problems with Other M come from the fact that it does so much to hold your hand, and left so little to the imagination. That got me down. Minitroid worked to do the opposite of both of those things, which made me happy.  So does Environmental Station Alpha, which feels a lot like a lost Metroid prototype from the old days. It's got cute but creepy alien environments, a bunch of neat power-ups, and more questions than answers about the protagonist and their world. If the game had been on the 3DS, maybe it would have found more of an audience.  Xeodrifter While it's never been confirmed, I'm pretty darn sure that Xeodrifter is a 2D demake of Moon, another title from developer Renegade Kid. A lot of people say that Moon is like a cross between Metroid and Metroid Prime Hunters. If that's the case, then it would make sense that Xeodrifter is a Moon demake, as it wears its love of Metroid and Super Metroid prominently on its sleeve. One of the ways that Xeodrifter harnesses the original Metroid feeling is by dropping brick walls in front of the player. The game allows you to fly from planet to planet in a cute little ship. but that sense of freedom is balanced out by danger at every turn. Most planets are so hostile and difficult to traverse at first that chances are you'll be running for your life back to the ship in no time. The first Metroid did something similar. Though it may be hard for many Metroid veterans to imagine, most people who pick up the game for the first time do not run left to get the morph ball first. They run to the right, like almost everyone does in a 2D action platformer, only to find themselves stumped in the end. Only by returning to the start and trying something different can you obtain the tools you need to move on. Thankfully, Xeodrifter is so densely packed that backtracking rarely takes very long, so you'll rarely feel like you're time has been wasted. Eventually, your tenacity and optimism will be rewarded to the point where there is no obstacle that you can't overcome. That brand of feature pacing is one of the basic principles behind Metroid-style games, but that's pretty much Xeodrifter in a nutshell. It nails the Metroid basics and never wears out its welcome.  La-Mulana La-Mulana is like the most evil, alienating, and suddenly fantastic areas of the original Metroid, but for 12 hours. It will require you to draw your own map. It will leave you completely stumped as to which way to go next. It will also blow your mind when you stumble into a new area that will make you think "what did I do to deserve this?" for better or worse. Through equal parts luck and hardcore action-archaeology skills, you'll most likely end up in heaven or hell, and it all feels like one big happy (or not so happy) accident.  That style of "anything goes" world design was something that few Metroid games were really willing to embrace after the first title. It seemed that later games were too afraid that players would feel alienated if they were given a truly disorienting, unpredictable world to explore. La-Mulana, and its upcoming sequel, are not encumbered by that fear. They aren't afraid to hurt you, because they respect you. They believe that you're strong enough to tolerate some pain, and that your unwillingness to accept defeat will keep you coming back for more. Axiom Verge In a lot of ways, Axiom Verge takes all the elements that these (not) Metroid games and maxes out on them. It looks so much like Metroid that even Nintendo of America President Reggie Fils-Aime couldn't help but shout about it. It offers multiple questions about the protagonist and the world he's invited to explore while giving few concrete answers until much closer to the end. It isn't afraid to provide the player with road blocks, but it also goes out of its way to reward the player for defying conventional thinking, to the point where actually "breaking the code" of the game becomes a legitimate gameplay mechanic. The problem for Nintendo fans is, Axiom Verge is currently not on the Wii U or the 3DS, and given how it took one-man development team Tom Happ about five years to make the game in the first place, chances aren't too high that we'll be getting in on Nintendo consoles any time soon. Unless, of course, Nintendo decides to step in and lend Tom a hand.  I have to wonder how fans would react if Nintendo announced it was aiding in the publishing of Axiom Verge, and allowed the developer to create some Nintendo-exclusive Metroid-tribute section with a Samus-like character in the lead. In the end, all most Metroid fans want is the opportunity to play a game like Axiom Verge but with Samus as the lead. If Nintendo were to recognize that by allowing Tom Happ, Renegade Kid, Joakim Sandberg, or any of the many other talented developers who have proven that they understand what we love about Metroid to take a crack at the series, I have to wonder if fans would still be salty about side games like Metroid Prime: Federation Force. 
Metroid photo
Pacify your Metroid urges (Metrurges?)
When it comes to Metroid, I'm an entitled baby, and I'm not ashamed to admit it. When I heard that the next official game in the series was going to be like the Metroid Blast mini-game from Nintendoland mixed with s...

Bloodstained Kickstarter photo
Bloodstained Kickstarter

Bloodstained Kickstarter ends with over $5.7 million pledged

Hit all stretch goals, set records
Jun 12
// Darren Nakamura
It doesn't feel like it has been a month since we were first asked "sword or whip?" or we first heard the term "Igavania," but here we are. Koji Igarashi and company launched the Kickstarter campaign for Bloodstained: Ritual ...
Bloodstained Vita photo
Bloodstained Vita

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night will get a PS Vita version

By the same team doing the Wii U port
Jun 06
// Darren Nakamura
Back when Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night hit its Wii U stretch goal a week ago, it also revealed that for an additional half million dollars it would come to the PlayStation Vita. I was pretty sure it would hit that b...
Bloodstained Wii U photo
Bloodstained Wii U

Bloodstained hits Wii U stretch goal, Vita stretch goal revealed

I'm interested in this
May 30
// Darren Nakamura
Though the Kickstarter page for Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night still lists the current total at under $3 million, a recent backer update revealed that adding in non-Kickstarter PayPal funding brings it up to that mark. So ...
IGA plays photo
We had no sword or whip
Nearly 25,000 people have backed Castlevania: Symphony of the Night assistant director and subsequent series producer Koji "IGA" Igarashi's Kickstarter project, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. This, despite the fact that ...

Axiom Verge photo
Axiom Verge

Axiom Verge is relatively the same on PC, with one helpful upgrade

On Steam this week
May 13
// Conrad Zimmerman
Axiom Verge releases tomorrow on Steam. If you've read my review of the game from its earlier PS4 launch, you already know that I think it's a solidly designed exploration-based platform title. I'm happy to report that it's j...
Bloodstained funded photo
Bloodstained funded

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night fully funded in less than four hours

$500,000 and counting
May 11
// Darren Nakamura
Full disclosure: I backed this at the $60 tier. I almost went for the $125 tier, but "No," I said to myself. "Let's be reasonable." The Kickstarter campaign for Koji Igarashi's Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night has only been ...

Castlevania's IGA back with 'dream game' Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night

May 11 // Steven Hansen
Bloodstained stars Miriam, an orphan stuck in the middle of "a classic tale of magic, or rather faith and belief, versus science," Igarashi told me through a translator. A group of alchemists, fearing its waning relevancy as science captures the 18th century setting, try to warn against the world losing faith. Start fucking loving science, they warn, and a bunch demons will take over. When that doesn't happen, egg on face, the alchemists start fusing demonic crystals into orphans to call the demons to earth, attempting to instigate a global annihilating "told ya so." The demon crystals have a, "natural inclination to expand, eat away at hosts' bodies," not unlike bad videogame companies, perhaps. "Stained glass" acts as an artistic motif reflected in the art style, but those pretty shades in characters' skin are also the basis of gameplay. Enemies drop materials, which are forged into gems, which can be formed into weapons. Rare materials can be forged into ability crystals that can be stuck in Miriam's body. They can also be combined in a number of ways, like adding a strength+ attribute crystal to a double jump for a double jump attack move. Igarashi explained the new system would be a little less repetitive than old Castlevania's, naming Aria of Sorrow specifically, where "you're just grinding on the same enemy to create the same thing." Why stained glass? "Stained glass is already cool-looking as it is, but stained glass weapons is badass." A recent walk through Grace Cathedral in San Francisco has me in agreement. Igarashi, "wanted to have a more colorful palette," and so on top of the stained glass, you have a blue-heavy protagonist, purple tinted key items (candles, keys), and an active blood orange sky in the background (thanks to parallax scrolling) inspired by an 18th century Icelandic volcano eruption that killed 23,000 Brits and bore a "bloody sun rising." All of this is framed by classic Gothic gray. If the mock up is any indication, it could look lovely. That's a "could," of course, because the game has not been made yet. Igarashi is someone you can likely depend on to make a Castlevania-style game. Inti Creates has been delivering for a long time. And Bloodstained isn't even held hostage by its Kickstarter, though it's meant to fund the last "20%" of development (and make for physical, pressed Xbox One and PS4 discs). Still, it's a way's out. Igarashi hasn't been gone from Konami much more than a year and shopping this proved difficult, hence last year's "hold." Igarashi "scoured the globe" and "pitched every major -- even minor -- publisher on this concept." "There was a ton of interest, but for various reasons, from, 'we do distribution for Konami and...don't want to anger them,' to 'Oh, this looks like a Japanese game.' But they didn't realize Igavania games sold better in America than any other territory." Incidentally, despite the widening popularity of the term "metroidvania," the team is eschewing the "castle" and "metroid," opting for the term "Igavania," explaining, "We want to make sure we don't anger Nintendo, and Igavania is a more accurate name." This project will likely irk someone at Konami regardless -- "Konami doesn't know about it," Igarashi said last month -- perhaps even more if it proves successful, like Mighty No. 9 or the recent not-Banjo-Kazooie platformer from ex-Rare folks, Yooka-Laylee. Given those examples (or Double Fine Adventure Game, or a number of others), it feels like a sure thing, but Igarashi does seem a bit more unsure after constant publisher rejection. "A lot of them were more interested in AAA stuff," he said. "There's a big disconnect between what the publishers are giving people and what the fans want." Inafune's success, specifically, "proved that the Western audience would put its money where its mouth is and support the creators that it loves." Igarashi doesn't expect he'll generate "anything close" to Mighty No. 9. He remains modest about the whole thing. "I spent the last year trying to make this work because I believe that's what the fans are telling me. And if the Kickstarter campaign shows that's not the case, then in the end the publishers were right and I was wrong." "From Iga-san's perspective," the translator, explains, "the most frustrating, saddening part is that he did his due diligence. He tried to work within the standard publisher model." It does seem surprising that Mr. Castlevania shops around a Castlevania and no one bites. Then again, why did Igarashi have to leave Konami in the first place to make this sort of game? "In the good old days, it used to be, as a producer you'd put your neck out on the line to make a game and if it's didn't work out, then you'd be done," Igarashi explained. Speaking specifically of Konami, at least as far as he left it a year ago (and somehow it was in a better state then), "Recently, there's more of a delicacy at [Konami] towards how they handle IP to the point where rather than maybe making new games, 'let's just not touch it'" becomes the mantra. "Or, 'we have to do it a bigger way." The 3D Castlevania, perhaps. Igarashi thinks it's "more risk averse" because someone used to, "pledge it would be okay, and it was their responsibility," but given that he would've have pledged on a new Castlevania, or Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's likely ending relationship with the company, I'm not sure that's all of it. But Konami is in the past now. Inti Creates is making Bloodstained under Igarashi's direction. "We had several developers that were interested," he explained. "We needed a team that was both capable, but more importantly passionate. "They said, 'Listen, ever since becoming an independent studio, we've wanted to do three games.' One was a Mega Man type game, which they're now doing. The second was an Igavania game. And the third is a Zelda-type game, which they will probably never get a chance to do," Igarashi chuckled. Nintendo seems more open these days, though. Igarashi did dredge up some past, scoring the composer of Symphony of the Night, Michiru Yamane. "I basically tricked her into joining the campaign by getting her really drunk and making her promise she would help," Igarashi said. "You think that's a joke, but it's the truth." I believe it. And I believe Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night's campaign shouldn't have a problem, "proving that this is a concept that the fans really want." I mean, all you have to do is ask "Sword or whip?" and they flip.
IGA's metroidvania photo
Publishers wouldn't touch it
Last year, Castlevania: Symphony of the Night assistant director and subsequent series producer Koji "IGA" Igarashi left Konami after nearly 25 years with the company. At GDC that year, Igarashi ended his interesting Symphony...

Review: Environmental Station Alpha

Apr 28 // Jed Whitaker
Environmental Station Alpha (PC)Developers: Arvi Teikari, Roope MäkinenPublisher: Hempuli Oy  Released: April 22, 2015 MSRP: $7.99 As a robot sent on a special mission, you'll spend your time exploring a space station filled with different environments, from a forest to a volcano and even a surprisingly well-done water level. Along the way, players will find clues via computers that hint at the previous happenings of the station, upgrades that help you access news areas, and general power upgrades. Most areas contain multiple bosses, and a plethora of secrets to find. Alpha doesn't stray far from the basic Metroidvania formula. Search until you find a boss, kill it, collect an upgrade that allows you to advance to the next area -- then repeat. That isn't by any means a bad thing. You're free to roam as you see fit, but computer terminals will mark areas on your map that give a general idea of where to go; you only need to figure out how to get there. The station is huge. Luckily, there are teleporters that can be activated to jump around areas when needed, cutting backtracking time. Even with a map and this convenient means of travel, I found myself getting lost more than once, especially later in the game when I was forced to retrace my steps to find where the next area was. The fact that you were given these general locations to guide you early on and are no longer provided them later in the campaign feels like an unfortunate design oversight. Finally finding where you need to go can be rewarding, or tedious depending on the amount of time needed. A lot can be done with pixel art, and Environmental Station Alpha is proof of that. Each biome has a unique look and feel and is far more detailed than the retro games that influenced it. Leaves fall around you in the forest biome, bubbles appear in the water, and sparks fly in the volcano biome. Each area has a nice unique effect that really complements the action well. Combine this with a soundtrack that will get stuck in your head, and you have an all-around decent presentation. Throughout the game you'll acquire various upgrades that range from a double jump, to a dash to a hookshot that feels rather similar, to the bionic arm from the original Bionic Commando. The hookshot is really a key item, as the moment you get it you're expected to use it often to traverse each of the station's biomes. Thankfully the hookshot mechanics are solid, allowing you to swing to and fro finding the next boss with ease. While you constantly gain upgrades throughout the game, boss battles never seem too easy or too hard, as their difficulty scales well. Each boss feels unique from the others, having different attack patterns and varying weak points. Since these big bads aren't pushovers, I was neck and neck with many of them, often times at the end of my health bar when I finally defeated them. These confrontations are some of the most satisfying boss battles I've had in a game in some time.  After finishing the initial story a ton of post-game content waits to be found on and off the station, but locating it won't be easy. A cryptic alien language must be decoded and then used to subsequently translate various clues. Following said clues will lead you to multiple endings and a post-game boss. While all this certainly extends its shelf-life, the amount of effort required to translate the hints, which themselves are rather vague, isn't for everyone. Those who persevere will be able to get their save files up to a 202 percent completion when all is said and done. Overall, Environmental Station Alpha didn't reinvent the wheel when it comes to Metroidvania games, but it certainly helped satisfy my appetite. The amount of secrets and post-game crypticness might be great for some, and it does extend the playtime quite a bit, but as a completionist I found it to be more legwork than I'd like. Call me crazy, but I don't like tons of cryptography in my games. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
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