Ghost Song blew away my expectations, made me die a lot

The friendliest ghost you know

I have to be honest, I’ve been a skeptic of Ghost Song since it was announced and then crowdfunded. People around the internet have reacted as if it weas God’s gift to gamers and the second coming of Samus, and I just thought it looked dull and mediocre at best.

Well, I’m here to admit, for the first time ever, I was wrong. Dead wrong. I’m prepared to be stripped naked and paraded through the streets behind a nun dressed as Ridley with a ‘shame bell’ while you all throw rocks at me. Ghost Song is shaping up to be fantastic.

In this spooky metroidvania, you’ll be playing as a character who crashed landed on a planet looking for a way home. Not much else has ever been said about the story, though I’ve been told that it deals with a personal loss of some sort. Most of my time with the demo was spent wandering dark caverns while eerie music played, much like the original Metroid, which is a very good thing.

I bumped into a few different enemies, most of which were large, blue, humanoid creatures that easily killed me in a few hits; the same could be said for most of the baddies. I’ve played many metroidvania games, but this is the first one where I felt enemies posed a real threat. Other games slowly ramp up the difficulty while providing health and weapon power-ups, but after playing Ghost Song, I felt like it is the Dark Souls of metroidvanias. You have to learn to play it safe, only going for attacks at the right time, since enemies hit so hard if you miss.

While you technically have unlimited ammo, there is a cooldown period before it replenishes in your clip. This means you have to take extra consideration into how each shot is made, instead of just hammering away at the fire button. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another game in the genre do this. I was rather annoyed by it at first, but it does add a lot of tension to battles. I’m concerned about how it will play out in places with lots of enemies on the screen, or during boss battles, but otherwise it is a minor, yet impactful, change to get used to. 

On the left side of the screen is a meter that functions as a combo counter; each time you hit an enemy it increases, resulting in you dealing higher amounts of damage. If you can make the meter reach the top, you have unlimited ammo in your clip. I can’t recall if this is for a short period or until you are hit again, as I never actually had it occur in the demo I was playing because I got hurt so often, so I wouldn’t expect to rely on this all that often.

One thing that caught me off guard was just how fantastic and interesting the voice acting is. For a game being developed by one person, I expected it to be text-only at best. Just give this video a watch to hear a bit of it and find out a little bit more about the story (though I guess you could say it contains light early game spoilers). It’s so good, and has some pretty great writing too.

For one reason or another, the graphics just look far better in motion when playing it for yourself than in pictures or videos. Perhaps it is the fact that you can make out the fine details of the filters and appreciate the animations a bit better when in control. I originally thought the game movement and graphics looked cheap and clunky, but they have come a hell of a long way since the reveal.

All around, Ghost Song blew away my expectations with literally every part of the game being exceptional so far. Easily one of the best games I played at PAX East 2016. Sure, it might take a whole lot of influence from classic Metroid games, but when has that ever been a bad thing? I’ll definitely be picking this one up on release and feel very confident in it living up to my expectations.

Jed Whitaker