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Downloadables: Epic Breath of Despair

One entry from last week tickled my fancy in a way I did not expect. It talks about digital distribution being the death of retro gaming. While it's an excellent read, I outright disagree with the saying "the death of retro gaming", but in a different sense. I'm going to talk about three fantastic games that I love, that are built around the idea of retro gaming.

With the rise of digital distribution comes the rise of smaller games for a cheaper price. Most are terrible half-assed games or attempts to cash-in on popular fads. We in the industry call this "shovelware" and there isn't a big enough shovel to heave this shit from sight. I can hear your epic breath of despair when you look upon the cluttered space known as digital distribution. Not knowing what's good, what's bad, and what could scar you, but fear not! I am hear to guide you to three games that show off the very essence of what makes this medium good and pure. So sit down and grab a sammich, this should be a smooth ride.

Epic Dungeon (Xbox Live Indie Game)
Developer: Eyehook Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Released: November 30, 2010
Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1)
This game is so good I even wrote a review about it. For those who aren't into reading blogs within a blog, I guess I'll provide a summary. This game is a complete throwback to 80s retro gaming, with it's main influence being the original Gauntlet. You choose one of four characters and must dungeon crawl through 50 floors to beat the game. It has added layers thanks to upgradeable equipment and level progression you'd find in a typical RPG where you get to increase your stats and spells. Just like in the retro days of gaming, once you die in this game, that's it. Your character becomes a tombstone and leaves behind a random piece of equipment for your next adventurer to stumble upon. Adding to the old school flare is an awesome 8-bit visual and audio style making you feel like you're back in the good 'ol days.

Breath of Death VII (Xbox Live Indie Game)
Developer: Zeboyd Games
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Released: April 22, 2010
Price: 80 Microsoft Points ($1)
This game is almost beyond words to describe it. It's an RPG akin to the old Dragon Quest (Or Dragon Warrior as it was known back then) games, sharing the same combat system, and general mechanics of the game. However, the brilliantly witty writing, and homage to decades of games sets Breath of Death VII into a class of it's own. In the name alone it pays tribute to Breath of Fire and Final Fantasy. Other references include Mega Man, Pokemon, Earthbound, Lufia, The Legend of Zelda, Fallout, Castlevania, Super Mario, Diablo, among others. Some are dropped ever so slyly that you'll find a smirk crawl right up your face, while other pop up in spontaneously and you cannot help but chuckle, or even burst out laughing. This game doesn't just feel like a really tight old school RPG, it also feels like a fan service by making us remember the games we grew up playing.

Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (Xbox Live Arcade)
Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Released: August 4, 2010
Price: 1200 Microsoft Points ($15)
Speaking of fan service, that's the entire point to this game. It struck a particular chord between Castlevania fans. Some loving it because it's mixed an arcade feeling into the "Metroidvania" style of the newer games. Others hate it because there's no story, the game is built for co-op, or they prefer the old school platforming type of games in the series. I'm obviously on the side that loves this game and for good reasons. Not only does the game feature a large cast of favourites, but through downloadable content, the nostalgia really kicks in. One of the stages recreates the entire NES classic into one giant level, in beautiful 8-bit glory with the soundtrack to match. Also released was an 8-bit character Simon Belmont, which is what tipped into buying the game.

The main aspect these games have in common is that they embrace the look and feel of the games I grew up playing. That is why I love them, and why I will continue to support smaller games like these. I was honoured to be your guide through this. While I did only cover one platform (Xbox 360), fear not! Breath of Death VII is now available on Steam, and Castlevania: Harmony of Despair is coming to the Playstation Network this summer!

Game on!
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About Shinobi13one of us since 7:55 PM on 03.05.2010

Name's Ozz, I'm 25 and hail from Southern Ontario, Canada. Tetris broke my gaming cherry back in '89, thanks to Game Boy, and I've been obsessed with gaming since '98.
My favourite console would be the Nintendo 64, and favourite game is Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. Aside from Zeldas, my favourite genre is First Person Shooters (Specifically old-school, DOOM, Duke Nukem 3D).
Xbox LIVE:BedCommando
PSN ID:BedCommando
Steam ID:Bed_Commando


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