With 2D platformers already being one of my favorite genres, #MetroidvaniaMay was a natural fit for me. I decided to spend this month exploring some newer indie games in the genre as well as playing an old classic that I had been meaning to get around to for a very long time. I streamed all three of this month's selections on my Twitch channel.
Record of Lodoss War: Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth
I've been looking forward to this one for a while since I was such a big fan of Team Ladybug's previous Metroidvania game, Shin Megami Tensei Synchronicity Prologue (review). Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth is based on the Japanese fantasy novel series, Record of Lodoss War, which has previously been adapted into anime and several other games.
- This game's gorgeous pixel art and animations do a great job of evoking the classic look of the anime.
- Deedlit's proficiency with both swords and bows makes her a very versatile character; it was fun to switch back and forth between melee and ranged attacks on the fly.
- Similar to SMT Synchronicity Prologue, Deedlit can dynamically change her elemental strength and weakness. This gives boss battles an Ikaruga-like quality that I quite enjoyed.
- In addition to using the bow for combat, you can also ricochet arrows off surfaces to flip switches and pull off some cool trick shots. The use of arrows for puzzles provided a nice change of pace.
- The difficulty curve is all over the place, especially for boss battles. There were some I would defeat very easily and others I would struggle with, but there wasn't a clear ramp-up in between.
- As much as I liked the element switching mechanic, it was hard to keep track of which element Deedlit had equipped in the heat of the action because her elemental affinity only changes her appearance slightly. Also, the UI feature that shows your current element is at the very edge of the screen and hard to glance over at during a battle.
- While I'm generally familiar with the characters and story of the anime, the story of this game seems to have been written for players who are caught up on the whole novel series. As a result, the plot seemed vague and unclear to me at times.
Blaster Master Zero
Inti Creates games are pretty much my jam, with Bloodstained (review) and Gunvolt (review) ranking highly among my favorite 2D platformer franchises. As a result, I was very curious to see how their revival of the NES favorite, Blaster Master, would fare.
- Similar to what they did with Bloodstained, Blaster Master Zero retains the 8-bit charm of the NES game's designs but adds extra detail and color beyond what an NES could render. It gives the games a very appealing Shovel Knight-like aesthetic.
- I loved the music in this game! So many 8-bit bops!
- Switching between side-scrolling vehicle sections and top-down on-foot sections gives the game a nice sense of variety.
- The game felt too easy for the majority of the campaign then had a sudden difficulty spike near the very end.
- The map features some repetitive level design elements (e.g. rising water/lava/acid) that got old after a little while.
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
It may have taken a long time to get around it, but this month I finally crossed one of my biggest gaming shames off the list! Symphony of the Night is one of the defining works in the Metroidvania genre and it has gone on to inspire many others since its original release on the Playstation 1.
- While the pixel art looks low resolution for a PS1 game, it makes up for it with fluid animations and smoothly rendering many sprites on screen at once (a feat that SNES Castlevania games definitely could not pull off).
- This game has an interesting and varied soundtrack that blends the retro rock-inspired sounds of the earlier Castlevania games with baroque and jazzy pieces. Part of the fun of discovering a new area of the castle was getting to hear what kind of music it would have.
- Symphony of the Night's version of Castle Dracula is huge, intricate, and a lot of fun to explore.
- The game's voice acting and script are terrible but in an endearing sort of way.
- Even compared to the previous two games I played this month, Symphony of the Night had a very inconsistent difficulty. Older Castlevania's are known for their challenging boss battles, but this game's fights were often unusually easy, which made many encounters feel anti-climactic.
- Some rooms in the castle spam you with enemies in a way that can get very annoying. This was especially true in an area that spawned infinite Medusa heads while I was trying to solve a puzzle.