For the longest time I found myself becoming disenfranchised with gaming. Triple A titles were becoming watered down, half finished, open worlds with nothing in them, and mostly disappointing. I was no longer getting excited about new games coming out and when one did catch my eye, I would find myself being skeptical and negative. It was becoming a little depressing. I’ve been an avid gamer since the NES days, and this genuine feeling of apathy towards my favorite hobby was weighing heavily on me.
Then came the Nintendo Switch.
At first, like others, I was skeptical about it. The design caught my eye, of course, but Nintendo always has their gimmick right? I was intrigued but I didn’t hop onto the hype train because I just didn’t want another disappointment.
Fast forward to the beginning of 2018. Completely uninterested in anything coming to my Xbox or Ps4, I decide to pick up a Switch and Breath of the Wild with my tax return, and dove right in. Needless to say, I was utterly blown away. The seamless transition between my TV and portable play was just the tip of the iceberg. Everything the console did was fast and snappy. This was a new Legend of Zelda title that had everything it needed to be familiar and nostalgia inducing, but also so vastly different from the rest of the series that it felt new and refreshing. I was absolutely stunned. I hadn’t been this excited about a console or a game in forever. Then I picked up Mario Odyssey, and the same thing happened. Everything a Mario game needs to feel like a Mario game…and yet… so utterly different. I found myself getting excited again and it felt like coming home.
Now, I’ve always been a Nintendo fan. I have owned every Nintendo system since the NES except for the WiiU. To be honest they are really the only company that has never actually let me down. They sparked my love for gaming when I was only a 3 year old obsessing over 8-bit cartridges. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that they would pull me out of this “Next-Gen Funk” I’d succumbed to. The Switch is just downright amazing. It has a fantastic library that is only growing more and more diverse and worthwhile every week. Plus, Nintendo’s desire to bring back and encourage that old style of “Couch Multiplayer” is truly a lovely and long sought after return to my roots. The Switch is a perfect console for the younger gamers, but it really brings something back to some of us cynical old farts that we’ve really been missing.
However, as if Nintendo pulling me out of that particular hole wasn’t enough. They also pulled me out of another one. Which leads to something else I think deserves talking about.
Project Octopath Traveler
Now being in the older generation of gamers I have a fond attachment to turn based JRPGs. From my first Final Fantasy on the NES, to the stellar lineup of games on SNES. These games were a major part of my childhood. I remember getting sucked into those adventures for months on end. Seriously, the amount of times I’ve beaten Chrono Trigger is absolutely ridiculous. I have easily thousands upon thousands of hours on that game alone. At the end of the GameCube/PS2 era though…these kind of games really took a dip in quality in favor of more action based gameplay and a sudden lack of superb storytelling. I found myself disenfranchised with this genre more than any other.
Until I downloaded the demo for Octopath Traveler on my Switch.
This game is exactly what I want and need from Square-Enix. It truly captures that old time feeling of a good classic JRPG. From the music, to the small tidbit of story we got in the form of expertly sliced demos, and the highly addictive battle system (which was only a small taste of it) and it’s gorgeous art style. It’s a perfect call back to those fantastic games on the SNES. I found myself feeling nostalgic and entranced in something that felt so new. I hadn’t felt this way about a game in a long time. The moment it became available for pre-order I snatched up the Wayfarer’s Edition with no hesitation. I’m normally against pre-orders entirely but man…this game deserves my cash.
So to sum it all up before this gets even longer: The Nintendo Switch is the best thing to happen to gaming, particularly my generation, in a very very long time. I feel like I can safely get hyped about gaming again. With all the love for JRPGs being shown to the Switch so far with games like Lost Sphear, I Am Setsuna, and the incredible Switch exclusive that Octopath will be I am so stoked. Plus all those sweet Nintendo first party franchises in the mix. My rekindled love is all due to this wonderful little device. It has even strengthened my relationship to my PS4 and X-Box One. It’s a good time to be a gamer, especially if you’re on the Switch.
Temtem was a game that caught our eye here at Proven Gamer and created a fervor. So much so that I found myself funding the game to get my hands on it a little early, and hoping that one day I can play it on my Switch. That goal is one step closer after Temtem not only hit their initial $70,000 goal, but they are now above the Switch threshold of $250,000 with 17 days to go. Obviously, any Kickstarter games can miss targets and in some cases never come out, but Temtem’s promising concept and design at this point cannot be ignored.
Temtem promises the players will be able to play along side their friends in a massively multiplayer world. Some call it the Pokemon MMO we always wanted, but it is promising to be much more than that. The game out of the studio Crema from Madrid, Spain features PVP, Co-operative play, breeding, and an incredible array of monsters to collect that span over 12 different types. The studio also created Immortal Redneck, which has garnered its own critical acclaim and proves the studio is no stranger to the Nintendo Switch hardware. The game’s final release is not scheduled until mid 2020, but the immediate support of gamers around the world is heard loud and clear; they want this game!
Check out the teaser trailer below:
So what do you think? Are you going to back the game on Kickstarter? Are you going to take a ‘wait and see’ approach? Let us know in the comments below.
The Pokemon 2018 Video Game Press Conference was held last night and we finally know what Pokemon games are coming to the Switch. We were also given a treat in the form of a mobile/Nintendo Switch game called Pokemon Quest, which is out now for Switch with mobile to follow “soon”.
Pokemon Quest is being called “Free to Start”, which indicates some form of cost coming. Whether that is in the form of a one time payment or a stream of micro-transactions remains to be seen. Pokemon Quest has you collecting and battling cube-like variations on the classic 151 Pokemon in an action RPG-like battle system. You collect “power stones” that are used to directly power up your Pokemon. Stay tuned to Proven Gamer for more in-depth thoughts soon as we sink our teeth into it.
Also revealed is the moment we were all waiting for – Pokemon on Switch. It appears many of the rumors circulating the internet prior to this conference were mostly true as Let’s Go Pikachu and Lets Go Eevee are the two titles coming to Switch on November 16th 2018 world wide.
Lets Go! Pikachu & Eevee revisits the Kanto region with the original cast of 150 Pokemon at your disposal. There is a deep integration with Pokemon Go in the ways that you now catch Pokemon, but also that you can transfer Pokemon from Go to Let’s Go. For what those Pokemon will be used for remains to be seen, although they showed these transferred Pokemon in place called Go Park. You can play this version many ways, which fits the Switch’s gimmick to a T. Play with one Joy Con or even with a special pokeball peripheral. You can even take your Pokemon on a walk with you using this new pokeball (Pokewalker anybody?). We cannot tell if you battle wild pokemon or if you just need to throw pokeballs, which would be a real bummer.
Please stay tuned to Proven Gamer as more information is made available.
It appears that Resident Evil 7 is headed to the Nintendo Switch…but not quite in the way you’d expect.
As of now, Resident Evil 7: Cloud Version has been listed Japanese eShop, with no confirmation on the title coming to other territories. As the name implies, the game runs entirely through the cloud and cannot be played offline…at all. So if you don’t have a stable internet connection – it appears that you are SOL. But wait – it gets better! The game can be played for 15 minutes for free but after that, you’ll need to purchase a 2,000 yen ticket which lasts 180 days. I mean, one can definitely get through the game in six months, but this move just baffles me. If Capcom wanted to bring RE7 to the Switch, then why not just do it? A $20 online-only rental is just such a bizarre move, but to each their own.
In any case, feel free to check out the trailer below and comment on what you feel about this surprising, yet odd piece of news.
According to a thread on Reset Era, it looks like God of War gave a mighty boost to the Playstation 4 sales for the month of April. According to the supposed leak, and after some math that I will never understand, the PS4 topped around 364,000 units, with Switch at around 171,000 units and the X-Box One trailing at 134,000 units. Magipork has the leak below:
“The relative sales volumes of game hardware was:
XBox One: 0.79
While this is firmly in the “grain of salt” territory, it would not be a shock to see God of War provide such a boost in sales. We look forward to seeing official NPD Numbers on Tuesday. Stay tunes here on Proven Gamer for more information.
Monster Crown is a special indie game where you train and breed monsters and go on a deep and dark adventure. While the game may look similar to Pokemon, and there may be monsters to collect, that is about where the similarities end. Once we had these two on Nintendo Duel Screens, I was sold. I had to back this game on Kickstarter. Since then they have smashed goal after goal and have a few days left to keep pushing.
A couple of weeks ago I sat down with Shad Shwark to talk about the artistic process behind his monster designs. This week I got to sit down with GameOnion & Alex Naveira, two composers working on this ambitious title.
Proven Gamer: First I want to thank you for agreeing to sit down for this interview. Monster Crown is shaping up to be something really special. So much so that I just HAD to become a backer! Before we get into the nitty gritty of music composition for this game, tell the Proven Gamer audience who you are , what are your roles, and how you two became involved in the project?
GameOnion: I’m a member of the music-team as a composer / arranger alongside Alex. It wasn’t always this way though, I actually used to do art for this project, but then I discovered music for myself. It’s just way more fun for me personally. Besides that, I’m also working on sound effects.
Alex Naveira: I’m also a composer and arranger for Crowns alongside Onion. I believe I started sometime in 2016, after onion had told me that there was a game he was doing art for that needed some music. The concept was pretty cool so I tagged along for it.
PG: So you guys had a previous relationship? How did you guys meet up?
Alex: I had heard of Onion in 2015 through twitter (I saw that he was a really good artist), but met him in 2016 through the comments of my YouTube remixes since he enjoyed a few of them. Him and I had worked together on WwwWario’s “Super Wario Land” in May of 2016 (although he was more focused on art at the time). We were pretty close back then and afterwards, he introduced me to the Monster Crown team. For the past year he’s gotten more into music production and I can safely say he’s one of my closest friends in the scene.
PG: Awesome. Now that all that getting to know you part is over with and I am all misty eyed, lets talk music shall we? Music in video games has started to become one of the most talked about aspects in gaming over the last few years. People are noticing a good soundtrack more and more. Some playlists of gaming soundtracks have tens of thousands of plays on YouTube. It wasn’t always that way, though. What do you think has changed?
Onion: Not sure, to be quite honest. I’d imagine it’s related to the increasing quality of music in the recent years. The appeal is much bigger these days.
Alex: I think that with the advent of the internet came the ability to find tons of other people that share your interests, and, I think a culture naturally appeared that celebrates video music – probably because lots of people play them, and because I don’t think you can have memories of your favorite childhood game without some sort of earworm-tune that stayed with you. Most people don’t think of Mario without the classic Level 1-1 theme, if you get what I mean. Nowadays people want to capture that “making of a classic” so a lot of it is based on nostalgia – probably why a lot of projects gain traction, since they want new things with the old coat of paint.
PG: What would you say is the most important aspect of music in games?
Onion: Themes in games are usually bound to specific characters, situations or areas. Usually, my goal is it to capture the atmosphere / personality of a theme or character. That can be done in various ways, instrument selection is an important factor, in my opinion.
Alex: Like onion said, atmosphere is incredibly important in regards to how I want a track to sound, but also, a good soundtrack (in my opinion) needs to trigger certain emotions as well. Certain songs (such as the “Fusion Facility” location track) were made with regards to the location that they play in, but to also have a melancholy vibe or nostalgic tone, as if you’ve heard it before – those kinds of tracks are my favorites in video games.
PG: So generally speaking, it seems like you are presented with a location or character and compose based on what is presented. With that being said – have you even come up with a track that dictated a location or character?
Onion: Not that I remember, no. If we did that, I wouldn’t be sure if it would fit.
Alex: Nah, so far it’s been the other way around every time. That would be an interesting way to approach creating a setting, though.
PG: So does coming up with a sound in your head happen right away or is it something you workshop a bunch?
Onion: For me personally, it’s kinda both. Sometimes I just make up stuff as I go along. Once you start working on something, a lot of ideas randomly come up.
Alex: Since the tracks are all chip-tune styled, I mostly think about how I can make a sort of hybrid of modern synth sounds and old GB-style sounds. Usually there’s more synth added on if I feel that the arrangement needs a bit more oomph. Ideas for mixing synth with chiptune usually come pretty fast, though.
PG: Chiptunes. I’m glad you brought that up. I’ve heard musicians say that working with chiptunes is very limiting, which breeds creativity. Have you found that to be the case?
Alex: I enjoy working with chiptune channels, as I feel like each individual channel (be it the square, saw, triangle, etc.) is sort of it’s own little song. Since there are only 4 base chiptune tracks I work with to start, I enjoy trying to push as much as I can into such a small amount of default channels.
Onion: I personally find it somewhat limiting, but you need to keep in mind that some of gaming’s greatest tunes were made with those limitations. If they managed to make it work, we can too. Something else to remember is that Monster Crown combines chip-tune and synth / orchestra. That definitely gives us a lot more freedom with instrumentation.
PG:This is a perfect transition into walking us through the process step-by-step. So we are going to debut a brand new track right here on Proven Gamer. Can you guys take us on a journey on how this track was made from conception to completion?
Onion: While I can’t say much about Alex’s workflow on that specific theme, here’s my usual process: I come up with either the melody or a bassline first. That original melody I come up with changes a lot through the creation of a song, usually because it doesn’t fit within a progression I would love to use or something like that. If you’re set on a melody, the next logical step would be to come up with a backing track / chord progression.
Onion (Cont’): As you can tell by Alex’s track right there, he used a piano for chords, which isn’t really a wave table-type sound you would expect in a game like this. That’s usually what I try to do too: Chords are played by more realistic instruments or a synth, it’s a nice contrast. Once I’m set on a progression, the next step would be to come up with something like a countermelody, of course. Striking the right balance between orchestral sounds, synths and wave table-synths is important here. Percussion is usually the last thing I do, but it varies. So that’s the general composition-process, but mixing and mastering is a whole different story. That is a big, complicated mess, which I can’t possibly cover in detail now. It usually takes longer than the composition itself for me.
Alex: For Mill Town, the first half was actually an older composition I did about a year before I arranged it again for Monster Crown. The second bit before the loop that counts as a ‘bridge” back to the beginning would be the second song. Sometimes I have little mini-songs that I match up with other ones I have in my head. I tend to start with a melody – since I prefer it to dictate what the chords are, not the other way around. I started with just the chiptune version and that was considered the final version for a while, but when I decided to try and define just what the “style” for Monster Crown was, I went back and added some of those synth elements – as I did to a lot of the tracks. I think onion’s workflow and my own are very similar when it comes to a composition. I’ve learned that mixing in mono actually helps a lot, so that’s one thing I’ve started doing that I could point out, but a lot of times it’s a whole mess of EQ bands and filters.
PG:Love the complexity in the layers there. Really catchy, but not too repetitive. Feels like I am in a laid back part of town with a sense of adventure. So we have established that music can set the tone for specific scenes. How can music in games tell a story? Do you have any favorite tracks from gaming past that tells a story?
Alex: Music can tell a story through emotions alone – this one really overlooked track from an already overlooked game, Island Life from The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, always gave me a feeling of “this is what life is now for the protagonist”, and sets a tone for the rest of the soundtrack too since it plays early on. It’s also an arrangement of the Fairy Fountain / File Select song that has been in the series since nearly the beginning.
Alex (Cont):When it comes to Pokémon, I love how bittersweet and melancholy New Bark Town from Gold and Silver sounds, because it represents the vibe that your character has been there for his or her entire life.
Onion: That’s a very difficult question for me to answer, considering how many games I’ve played and OSTs I’ve listened to, haha. Though, one soundtrack that has always sticked out to me was Pokémon Mystery Dungeon 2’s selection of music. The progression of the tone of the themes is quite interesting, they get pretty haunting for a Pokémon game near the end of the story. I connect a lot of memories with that game, and the music takes me back instantly. This OST manages to capture the atmosphere of each area incredibly well, the emotional themes still make me feel the same way as they did when I first played the game. Simply incredible.
PG: Thank you guys. This was a lot of fun and I learned a lot. Like that I will never be able to do what you two do. Good luck in the final days of the Kickstarter campaign!
Onion: Ha ha. Thank you for the support and thank you for having us!
Runbow has been delayed, with no new release date announced. According to the press release earlier today, Runbow needed to be delayed to ensure the games quality. We should have more information on the release date in the next couple of weeks. Read a portion of the press release below:
Düren, April 20th 2018 – The colorful racing chaos of award-winning party game Runbow will be postponed for some weeks in order to further optimize the game’s performance.
Headup Games and 13AM Games deeply apologize to everyone who’s already looking forward excitedly to play it, but in order to feature the highest quality possible, Runbow needed to be delayed for PlayStation®Store and Nintendo eShop. But rest assured – it’s just a matter of weeks. You will get the newest date, as soon as it is set.
The same may apply to the retail Runbow Deluxe Edition, due to the digital shift this date will probably shift back a bit as well. The Deluxe Edition will include all DLCs and nice physical goodies.
Proven Thoughts: Runbow is a chaotic mess of fun and could be one of the best couch co-op experiences on PS4 & Switch. With the Switch version boasting 8 player couch co-op I cannot WAIT to get my hands on that version.
If Blossom Tales and Shovel Knight’s sales are indicative of anything, it’s that indie titles are a smashing success on the Nintendo Switch. Yes, the ‘Nindie’ scene is here to stay, so why not compile a wish-list of PC/PS4-bound indie games that we want on the Nintendo Switch. Here we go!
Black Future ’88 is a 2D cyber-punk side-scroller where you climb an ever-evolving procedural tower that upgrades itself the higher you ascend. Your objective is simple: reach top of the tower and assassinate its insane architect in 18 minutes or less…or your heart explodes. Each pulse-pounding second of hyper-intense gameplay is accompanied by a striking synth score certain to blow your speakers out. Black Future ’88 is currently set to release on Steam in 2018.
Assuming the role of a rambunctious 10-year-old boy named Luciano, The Italianeer invites you to punch and pummel your way through 1980s New York City to collect a smorgasbord of food items for your family. With drop-in/drop-out co-op support and gameplay similar to arcade beat-’em-ups like The Simpsons or Turtles in Time, you’d be wise to bring a trusted paisano on your delightfully hilarious adventure; every track-suit-wearing jabroni this side of Brooklyn is hellbent on wipin’ that stramboli-eatin’ grin off your face.
Equal parts Majora’s Mask and Rogue Legacy, with just a dollop of Adventure Time, The Swords of Ditto is a couch co-op perma-death dungeon crawler that gives you five days to prepare and confront the Evil Witch Mormo to prevent the world’s end. How, you might be asking, does one go about postponing doomsday if death is a permanent inevitability? The answer is simple: when your randomly-generated hero dies, a century passes and one of your descendants begins the cycle anew.
A pixel-lover’s paradise, Eagle Island is an avian adventure unlike no other. As Quill, you must explore the eponymous isle in pursuit of a gargantuan deity known as Armaura – a particularly foul…fowl who has shanghaied with your owl companion Ichiro. Fortunately Koji – your spare sidekick – is ready to swoop into action. Utilizing ‘falconry-based gameplay’, and Ancient Totems to elementally empower your fine-feathered friend, Quill’s journey is poised to be an ornithological outing for the ages when Eagle Island releases Summer 2018.
Let’s face it: Crazy Taxi is so 2000-and-lame. Picking up would-be passengers and recklessly playing chauffeur was fun but it’s Current Year, and Current Year is all about pizza delivery. Pizza Titan Ultra is a frantic, arcade-style action game where you pilot a 10-story mobile pizzeria and deliver piping-hot pizza pies all over town. Taking place within a futuristic city (if this is the future, sign. me. up!), fulfilling orders in 30 minutes or less is the least of your worries as your custom mech will constantly contend with (i.e. bash) a number of machines that get in the way of your deliveries (see, that’s what you get for putting pineapple on a pizza).
What do you think? Are these titles worthy of the ‘Nindie’ honorific? What indie games do you want on the Nintendo Switch? Sound off in the comments section below.
If you have not been following the indie game Monster Crown prior to today, shame on you. Monster Crown has launched a Kickstarter earlier this week and subsequently smashed their goals. With over $11,000 raised and an initial a goal of $5,000 in less than four full days live, Monster Crown is primed to set the world on fire. Shad Shwarck and lead developer Jason Walsh are joining myself and Andy Asimakis on the next episode of Nintendo Duel Screens to talk all about the concept behind Monster Crown. Before that show launches I had the pleasure of sitting down with Shad to talk about the art of Monster Crown and the artistic process behind it all.
Proven Gamer: Hey Shad! First of all, congratulations on smashing your initial goal and then some on Kickstarter. That is an incredible feat!
Shad: Thank you and thank you so much to everyone who helped us out. None of us expected this much positive reception this fast, but we absolutely couldn’t have done it without some awesome fans and supporters of Monster Crown. We can’t wait to share the finished game with everyone. That goes for you guys at Nintendo Duel Screens and Proven Gamer, too!
Proven Gamer: Okay, so, for those who don’t know what Monster Crown is, tell us about it. What is the elevator pitch?
Shad: Monster Crown is a game where you meet, battle, tame, and breed monsters, and through breeding and training can create unique crossbreeds, even so far as discovering combinations other players may never find. Set in a universe where dangerous monsters roam, and the people have only recently started to rebuild their land from a brutal civil war, you find yourself face to face with the echoes of that bloody conflict. It’s up to you and the monsters you’ve contracted to traverse this dangerous world – I can’t say exactly how you’ll face the shadows of the past, and not just to avoid giving too much away – there’s a choice to be made, and you’ll just have to play to see what happens!
Proven Gamer: Man, it is no wonder people are flocking to support you guys. So, with a game of this scale and with all the designs needed, how did you handle that type of scale? What were some of the challenges for you?
Shad: There are a lot of designs needed for sure – I think one of the biggest challenges for handling that is making sure it stays consistent, while avoiding stagnation. You don’t want to make a game that looks like you have a cute round blob with anime eyes next to a realistic, muscular hellbeast that looks like the Predator. Key to handling large projects is to have solid art direction – by deciding guidelines on how visuals should look overall, even designs with a lot of variance look like they belong with each other. For example, monsters for Monster Crown use four colors: black, white, and two others that can be passed on in breeding. Pixel dithering is used to create more intricate shading, but we never exceed that color palette (except in very rare circumstances.) That way, even if you have a small, cute monster next to a big, terrifying nightmare, they still appear like they belong in the same world.
Proven Gamer: Consistency is key, and from what we can see, these monsters all seem to fit together really well. Did you ever hit a wall artistically? A time where you just looked at the page and simply could not come up with anything? I imagine with all the Pokemon games, Digimon Games, etc, it could be hard coming up with original designs. Would that be fair to say?
Shad: I don’t have too much of a problem coming up with original designs admittedly – it comes fairly easily to me and if something looks too generic or needs some tweaks I don’t feel like that’s too hard. I think I’ve been doing it for so long, I can think through the process quickly. That said, I think the biggest walls I hit are trying to ensure that colors look okay, that I’m coming up with something that will look nice with any available color palette. That, and making some designs work nicely in low resolution – it can be a blessing as much as a curse though, because while on one hand working small-scale can be difficult, it also stretches my design muscles in ways that they wouldn’t get stretched if these monsters were high-res. You can’t fall back on ornamentation or texture at this size – it has to be solid in design and readable at small dimensions.
Yes…yes we would.
Proven Gamer: Shifting gears a little bit – On next week’s episode of Nintendo Duel Screens, releasing Monday 04/16 at 8:00am EST, you mention how you became involved in Monster Crown. It is a really cool story we wont spoil here, but can you tell us why this project is so important to you?
Shad: For one, it’s very fun and challenging and I get to work with incredible and ridiculously talented people. It’s the first time I’ve really had a chance to exercise my design and art muscles on a team project, and I couldn’t possibly ask for a better project to do it on. I’ve always been interested in art direction, writing, and character design, so I am incredibly lucky that I have a hand in all of those. On a more personal level, I feel video games saved my life – it’s been a dream of mine to share the power video games can have to others by making games myself. Video games are a truly unique medium that immerses their players into a world they not only can lose themselves in visually and audibly, but in a tactile sense. Monster Crown is a very special chance to help create an atmosphere and experience that someone could get lost in and fall in love with; it even one person can feel that magic, can for a little while “move in” to the world of Monster Crown, to feel at home there and forget the real world for a while, that would be the most amazing achievement in my life so far.
Proven Gamer: I bet you don’t have to look very far to find gamers that feel a similar way about video games. Thank you for sharing that. So lets get back into the art of Monster Crown. This game has a very Pokemon-like aesthetic, yet the monsters seem to have a certain edge to them. A darkness. How did you settle on that?
Shad: That aspect was present before I joined the team, but it’s definitely one of the major things that drew me to the project. Both Jason and I are huge fans of creepy, dark, somewhat horror-tinged work, and that’s probably why our creative processes line up so well! We both wanted to instill that childlike wonder that you’d get playing the old Pokémon games – not just merriment, but terror, too. There was so much I didn’t know playing those as a kid, it felt like anything was dangerous and anything was possible. To me it’s just natural to want to instill that on-edge feel when working with a more “retro” aesthetic.
Proven Gamer: How does the artistic process work? Is it as simple as pencil to paper?
Shad: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depends on what the specific asset I’m trying to make requires. Some monsters were sketched fully before being sprited. Some were basic doodles that then were fleshed out in spriting, and some were a vague idea that sparked a desire to push pixels around until something looked right. Sometimes multiple iterations are drawn out before deciding on one, but sometimes the first draft only needs a little tweaking. When it comes to things like backgrounds or illustrations, though, I always start with a sketch to ensure composition will be readable and to get the general idea down.
Proven Gamer: So now you have a little treat for our readers – you are going to go over the artistic process step-by-step and reveal a never before seen monster. I can’t wait to see it!
Shad: Neither can I! Here we go!
A simple drawing of two types of creatures that will be combined to make a new monster!
The terrifying reality begins to take shape.
The sprite art comes to life!
Presto! The final product is a monster the kids of Stranger Things would be terrified of!
Proven Gamer: What a cool process! Thank you for sharing that with us! So with this example the idea seems to be something you toyed around with. Is it always that wayor does the design team say “hey I want a monster that does x y and z” and you design from there?
Shad: It’s a bit a mixture of both – sometimes I come up with an idea and show the team and we decide it’s a good idea and we should put it in, and sometimes we see that certain types of monster or biomes are lacking and I design based on that. I have a lot of free reign over the designs I do, so I’ve never followed any guidelines like “can you make a monster that looks like (animal) that lives in (biome) and does (action)”, but I think maybe it would be fun if I did. I’ll have to ask Jason for some prompts!
Proven Gamer: So… do you have a voice for the characters you design in mind?
Shad: Sometimes – I definitely have a voice in my head for some of the villains and a few of the monsters. Most of them I don’t imagine to have much of a voice at all, so I tend to envision them in their daily lives and see what happens.
Proven Gamer: So the main monster is Laz is the main monster in the game. What song do you hear when you see him?
Shad: Ooh, can’t say I’ve thought of that! Probably the entire soundtrack to the game OFF. It’s creepy but occasionally fun – Laz is creepy but I find it kind of unnervingly cute too.
Laz – The Reanimated
Proven Gamer: I hear Sad But True by Metallica for some reason. Okay last question – You have heard the Nintendo Duel Screens theme song 8-Bit Attack by Zazu Pitts – what would a monster design based on that tune look like?
Shad:Hmm.. a round, rooster-like bird (maybe one of those Polish chickens with the fluffy rockstar “hair”) with perhaps piñata paper feathers and a spiked bat in place of a tail comes to mind. Bright and bouncy, but it has an undertone of meaning business. It’s the piñata that strikes back!
Proven Gamer: Thank you so much for doing this!
Shad: You are very welcome! Thank you for inviting me to do this!
Jotun: Valhalla Edition Thunders onto the Nintendo Switch™ System on April 27th.
Critically acclaimed indie darling Jotun is coming to the Nintendo Switch in the form of Jotun: Valhalla Edition on April 27th, 2018. See the press release below:
Montreal, Canada – April 13, 2018 – Thunder Lotus Games has announced that Jotun: Valhalla Edition will launch worldwideon the Nintendo Switch™ system on April 27, 2018. In preparation for release of its hand-drawn Viking game on the popular system, Thunder Lotus has remastered Jotun’s graphics for Nintendo Switch™ and optimized its action-exploration gameplay for the console’s handheld mode. The developer is confident the upgrades will help draw new players to the award-winning game, which recently surpassed the one million player milestone.
Jotun: Valhalla Edition for the Nintendo Switch™ will be pre-purchasable as of April 13th on the Nintendo eShop in North and South America, as of April 18th in Europe, and April 19th in Japan. The launch trailer can be viewed at [link].
Thunder Lotus’ debut production earned high praise from press and players alike for its gorgeous visuals and challenging gameplay upon its release on PC (2015) and consoles (2016). The developer is proud to confirm that Jotun has welcomed over 1 million players into its hand-drawn norse-inspired world since its initial launch.
Those that had enjoyed the game on Wii U™, especially, will notice an evident graphical upgrade in the new release. Subtler, but no less crucial, are the gameplay tweaks implemented by the developer to allow for a seamless experience on the Nintendo Switch™ console’s handheld mode. This prompted the company head to (somewhat wistfully) note that Jotun’s arrival on Nintendo Switch™ marks the first time a Thunder Lotus production is fully untethered from a dedicated TV screen or monitor.
“Playing a Thunder Lotus game on a handheld console brings me way back,” said Will Dubé, President of Thunder Lotus Games in a prepared statement. “One of my earliest gaming memories is passing the Game Boy back and forth with my brothers during road trips. I hope we can create similarly epic memories for new Vikings across the world!”
PG Thoughts: This announcement further cements the notion that the Nintendo Switch is becoming the go to platform for indie titles. The enormity of this game’s previous success is surely to continue to grow on the Switch. Look forward to our review soon.
“So what’s your game about?”, I asked the representative of Chainsawesome Games as I observed a bit of gameplay from a distance.
“It’s a 3V3 FPS where one team is invisible and the other team is invincible.”
I stood there with a perplexed look on my face. Before I even had time to mull over the ridiculousness of the developer’s sales pitch, I asked him to strap me in cause I wanted to see if what he was selling was as fun as it sounded. I can safely say Aftercharge not only met my expectations, but I could easily seeing it giving the likes of Rocket League a run for its money.
So let’s break this down: one team is invisible and the other team is invincible. One team is made-up of invisible robots whose primary goal is to sabotage six glowing tubes known as Energy Extractors located throughout the map. Successfully destroy all six and your team is victorious. Sounds simple right? Of course it does – you’re invisible for crying out loud! Well, it’s not so cut and dry. Striking one of your luminous objectives causes your cloaking device to stop functioning, thus revealing you to your indestructible adversary – the enforcers.
Now, as an enforcer, your objective is to track down those bothersome robots. Only after you have dropped all three robots (and keep them down) does that translate to absolute victory for the enforcer. Again, how hard can that be, right? If you simply camp the Energy Extractors then surely you can just obliterate those robots and call it a day. Especially if you make use of your tracking device – it’s barely even a competition! Not so fast there, chief. Did I mention that the robot team can revive fallen comrades? And you thought that it was going to be easy.
Aftercharge is very manipulative by means of how it appears and initially plays. Both sides seem to play easier than they actually are. As a robot, you need to shed a lot of what most online FPS titles teach you; a run-and-gun approach does not work here. You need to temper that inherent desire to blindly bash everything and everyone around you for a more coordinated tactic. It’s all about patience and communicating with your teammates to find the perfect chance pull a fast one over on the opposing team. Conversely, there is just as much planning and coordination that goes into playing as an enforcer. Between keeping an eye on the Energy Extractors and keeping robots down, things can get dicey in a hurry – especially when you factor in how quickly robots can revive one another.
For a game with such a simple objectives, I was surprised by the level of depth of each side’s gameplay mechanics. There is a lot of strategy to be found in a set-up like this and all of it hinges entirely on communication. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m terrible at online first-person shooters. So much so that I won’t even use a microphone – I’ll just do my own thing and my team be damned. But the cut-and-dry nature of Aftercharge, coupled with how rapid-fire each of the rounds were (seriously, it took me longer to strap on my headset than it did to finish a match) really lends to the accessibility of it. Suddenly I wasn’t so concerned with performing well – I was simply having too much fun to care. It also helps that game controls like a dream and has got a neon-glow TRON-ish vibe going on that I was completely into.
Aftercharge is set to launch Summer 2018 on PC, Xbox One and the Nintendo Switch (YES!!). Chainsawesome Games mentioned to me that Cross-Play will be a thing between all platforms and that there will likely be beta in July A price point hasn’t been set but the developer is considering a $19.99 price point.
A bit of disclosure: I am totally not writing a favorable preview of SpiritSphere DX just because I won a 1V1 match against its developer. My inflated sense of self-worth has absolutely nothing to do with the amount of gushing I’m about to unleash. With that being said, I was utterly charmed by this gem of a game. It easily turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of PAX East 2018.
At first glance SpiritSphere DX looks like a concept for a would-be air hockey/pong mini-game meant for Oracle of Ages/Seasons. Kudos by the way to developer Eeendhoorn’s for so skillfully capturing the essence of the 8-Bit era; the sprite work/animation is unquestionably top-notch. The game looks and even feels like am extensive ROM-hack of one of Link’s Gameboy outings. But the more I played it the more I realized that this unassuming ‘sports’ game was cleverly concealing a bit of Smash Bros. goodness within it’s retro-inspired exterior.
In SpiritSphere DX there are four key inputs to be mindful of: ‘Smash’, which allows you to deflect the sphere away from your side of the playing field. ‘Dash’, to make a potentially game-saving sprint towards the eponymous bouncy orb. ‘Item’ lets you make a one-time use of an item you pick up during the match. Items can range from relatively the relatively harmless – such an Arrow Shot or Bomb – to completely game-changing like increased movement speed or make you grow in size. And lastly there is a button assigned to your character’s Special Ability. And yes, SpiritSphere DX has got tons of character.
There are 10 characters to choose from, each one more zanier than the next. Lin for example (a clear-cut female clone of Link) wields a sword and is able to charge her attack to unleash a mighty swing. Baphomet – this game’s Ganon – can grab the approaching sphere and hold on to it before releasing it. It makes for a insanely unpredictable moment-to-moment gameplay. There is also Ozo, a mage that can only use spells. And a cat…named Buster.
SpiritSphere DX was clearly designed with an eye to the multiplayer experience. While it does have a single-player mode (with an actual story and BOSS FIGHTS!), developer Eeendhoorn wants you to get your buddies together to see who’s best. The game boasts an metric ton of modes such as Squash Mode for 1V1 action, and a ridiculously fun Boss Mode – a 2V1 match where one player controls an over-sized boss. But the most noteworthy of the bunch is Tate Mode. Tate Mode has two players using a single Nintendo Switch flipped vertically with each player holding one of the attached Joy-Cons on each end. I seriously cannot wait to take my Switch on-the-go and challenge folks on a crowded New York City subway; what could possibly go wrong?
If you’ve always dreamed of Mario’s sports series to look and feel like The Legend of Zelda than you have come to right place. SpiritSphere DX launches exclusively for the Nintendo Switch May-June 2018.
SpiritSphere DX is also the winner of the ‘Would Have Upstaged Mario Tennis’ Award which can be listened to in more detail here. SpiritSphere DX is being published by Fabraz Company, the creator of the oh-so excellent Slime-san (available now on all platforms)
Be sure to follow along with Fabraz, Eeedhoorn, and SpiritSphere DX’s progress over at their homepage here.
Kirby – Nintendo’s insatiable pink puffball – has finally made his Switch Debut in Kirby Star Allies. And while the formula hasn’t changed too much from previous iterations, fun, four-player action and endless copy abilities to combine elevate Kirby’s latest adventure to new heights.
I feel that I should start off by going over the Kirby Star Allies’ plot – or its lack thereof. It’s as throwaway and predictable as any fan of the franchise would expect, and is mainly there to act as delivery system for the real star – the snazzy new gameplay mechanics. So in case any of you were wondering, here is the story in a nutshell: some heart of darkness something or other has been unleashed by some black mage looking dude (who probably wasn’t hugged enough as a child) and sends all of Dreamland into a tizzy. It’s now up to Kirby to utilize the power of love to win over the hearts of his enemies and assemble a ragtag team of allies to put an end of the dark force…so pretty much every Kirby game ever – moving on.
As the name implies, Star Allies is all about recruiting enemies to your cause and utilizing their unique abilities to your advantage. The gimmick isn’t anything new to the Kirby franchise – the plump pink protagonist has been convincing denizens of Dreamland to fight alongside him for years., but what makes the gameplay mechanic so much more interesting is that Kirby can imbue abilities/weapons with elemental properties. Sure, that Sword Ability is all fine and dandy, but if you happen to have a Burning Leo on your team, you can upgrade your blade into a Sizzle Sword. And along with the added sensation of setting your enemies on fire and watching them run around all frantic-like while engulfed in flames, your blazing blade can also burn down bushes and melt ice blocks. Fire isn’t the only element you can expect to instill into your abilities as Water, Ice, Electricity and Wind are also on hand to further augment your powers. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. There are also unique abilities when you are equipped with non-elemental abilities such as Suplex, Parasol, and Spider. For example, amplifying the Parasol Ability makes your umbrella grow bigger, allowing you to better protect from falling debris or even block the flow of a cascading waterfall.
Half of the fun in Kirby games has always been about coming across new enemies and wondering what sort of abilities they might bestow. That fun factor has now increased ten-fold when you slowly start to realize just how you can bolster one ability with another. Nintendo doesn’t fail when it comes to bringing Kirby’s most notable feature center-stage as there are no shortage of abilities you can mix and match. But while it certainly is refreshing to see the creativity on hand when you see abilities play off of each other for the first time, a part of me wishes that Nintendo would be a bit more daring, and introduce a radical number of new copy abilities rather use series’ staples over and over again.
From a design perspective, the layout of Kirby Star Allies follows the pattern of Kirby games. Each of the themed worlds is broken up with a series of stages which culminates to a boss fight at the end. Extra Stages can be unlocked as well as a Dream Palace where players can recruit unique allies to Kirby’s cause. The soundtrack is every bit as engaging and memorable as the older games with plenty of fresh tunes mixed in with fan-favorite oldies for your listening pleasure. The aforementioned Extra Stages, for example, feature a classic Kirby tune which makes playing them so much more enjoyable. The simple score goes hand-in-hand with the games accessible nature as everything from the controls to the layout of each level and the placement of enemies, is all designed to make the experience as easy as possible. Which brings me to my own true gripe.
There was a time in the Kirby franchise when being hit by an enemy would result in the player losing their ability. There was also time when reaching a hidden path or utilizing an environment-specific gimmick (like a cannon with an unlit fuse), meant holding onto a specific ability as it wasn’t readily available…and certainly not in the same room as the ‘puzzle’ itself. Yes, Kirby wasn’t meant to be a hard game and I’m not asking for it to be the Dark Souls of copy-ability-based, side-scrolling platformers. But I guess the point I’m trying to make is that perhaps I may have outgrown the series. It seems to be geared towards a much younger audience ,a fact that I wasn’t quite ready to accept as the series had always been a big part of my childhood. But when I realize that I had beaten the entire game without so much as losing a life and had accumulated more lives than I knew what to do with, it made me long for the days when the series was even the slightest bit challenging. Fortunately, co-op and additional modes have transformed Kirby into a crowd pleasure, and playing it with friends on the couch does more to harken back to a simpler time in gaming, than a difficulty spike ever would.
Kirby Star Allies gets a lot of things right. It is brimming with color and dials the cuteness factor way up. While the Story Mode will last no longer than 8-10 hours, there is plenty of extra game to dive into once the main campaign has come to an end.
I admit, when I began my initial play-through of Toki Tori 2 +, my first thought was: why can’t I jump? – I’m a freakin’ bird! And why do I waddle so slowly?! But the more time I spent with the adorable puzzle platformer, the more captivated by it I became.
Toki Tori 2+ is a puzzle game through-and-through, and it is your job to guide an adventurous chick from one side of the screen. You do so with very simple and limited controls. The ‘B’ Button allows you to perform a Stomp Technique (who knew chicks were so hefty) while the ‘A’ Button activates a Chirp. The pitch of your Chirp is determined by how hard you press the button down, so light types produce a soft melody while a long press results in something a bit louder. Combinations of light and hard presses generates a song; think of it as a simpler version of an ocarina (and if you don’t get that reference, why are you playing video games?). Both of these tools are used to solve puzzles which are, as I stated before, essentially what the game is all about.
For the most part, Toki Tori 2+’s puzzles involve interacting with the on-screen flora and fauna of the environment. As your movement is very limited, you will have to rely on the various creatures of the world to get by. Sometimes that involves stomping on the ground to force creatures away from you. Other times it involves feeding them a bug which causes them to burp up a bubble for you to be encased in and hover to your next destination…cause video game logic, I guess. And other times it can be as simple as a flying bird snatching you with its claws and carrying you to your next platform. Sounds simple enough, right? But when you put all these elements together, that’s when things can get a bit tricky.
On the onset, Toki Tori 2+ does a wonderful job of lulling you into a false sense of security. It’s charming and unassuming exterior aside, the puzzles begin quite simple enough – perhaps even mind-numbingly so. But as you progress, the more you begin to realize that there is an evil force at play here the escalation in difficulty (and frustration) increases astronomically. There are moments where it feels as if you are keeping track of just too many things at once: okay, I have to lure that bug over here to feed that frog but I also have to make sure all these lobsters in crates shuffle in the right direction…and so forth and so on. It can get a tad overwhelming, and more often than not, you’ll fail and have to repeat the entire process over from the beginning. It’s this sort of trial and error format that rob you of that ‘a-ha!’ moment and make the proceedings more like a chore.
Fortunately, the game’s adorable aesthetic and simple, hum-worthy soundtrack lighten up the mood enough to keep frustration to a minimum. That coupled with a new checkpoint song (which I have read was not earlier versions of this title), which allows you to place a checkpoint wherever you like, reduces aggravation tremendously. Sure, it doesn’t take away from trial and error aspect I spoke of before, but it does let you set yourself up in a nice place should you fail a puzzle over and over again.
Overall, Toki Tori 2+ on Switch is fiendishly deceptive title which wears a cute little mask to hide its cruel intentions. The difficulty of some puzzles may be a bit much for novice puzzle game players, and certainly isn’t the type of game that is for everyone. But if you are willing to forgive a few minor grievances, you will find a strangely satisfying title to help pass the time between the next big budget release.
Nintendo Switch Review Code for Toki Tori 2+ provided to Proven Gamer courtesy of publisher/developer Two Tribes.
Developer Motion Twin has been making video games since about 2001 but if you’re not part of their self-described “Anti-social Network” Twinoid You may have absolutely no idea they even exist. Almost all of their games, aside from Dead Cells, can be played for free after signing up. I tried out a few of the games including MUSH, Die2Nite, and DinoRPG. Some are homages to beloved franchises. Others are wholly unique. While none of them really sank their hooks into me, almost all of them are indicative of one thing: The name Motion Twin will eventually be synonymous with greatness in the world of indie games.
All this history brings us to Dead Cells. Motion Twin’s Steam Debut is one hell of a “Hello” to the indie games scene and I’m gonna give you a few reasons I think you should give it a go.
Let’s start off with the combat. It is by far the #1 reason you should be playing Dead Cells. It’s frantic, tactical, and fluid all at once. As you play through the game you’ll pick up blueprints for a bevy of weapons and items that you can unlock using cells dropped from all the enemies you will inevitably slaughter. The combination of swords, shields, bows, skills and other gadgets is almost endless. You have four slots to fill, two of which can be filled with either a melee, ranged weapon, or shield. The other two are where your skills go. Each run (trust me there will be many) will have you balancing new strategies depending on what drops, power-ups, and skills you encounter. Weapons and Items are broken down into three, conveniently color-coded, combat styles: Brutality, Tactical, and survivability. These three styles eventually are tied into a series of perks like “Killing an enemy gives you X health” or “Shortens the cooldown on your skills by X%.” Building up one of these three styles with whatever power-ups you get is just one part of a larger synergistic combat system.
Every item you pick up has a chance to have an “Affix.” These range from just additional damage to things like “Does 125% damage against a bleeding target” or “Enemies killed with this weapon explode into a cloud of poison gas.” Using these affixes to build synergistic builds is not only key in succeeding in Dead Cells but maliciously fun. Curating a build well can lead to some absolutely vicious combinations.
Once you’re savvy enough, and if RNGsus is on your side, you could end up in a situation like the following: A group of enemies are in front of you. In your main weapon slot you have a sword that does 100% damage against a burning target. In your secondary slot you have Firebrands. In your first skill slot you have Oil grenades and in your second Skill slot you have a Deploy-able turret that causes it’s victims to drop a swarm of bitters. You open the salvo by throwing your Oil Grenade, this douses anybody unlucky enough to be in the blast radius with a Flammable oil that enhances the effects of any fire weapon. After they’re drenched in oil you throw the fire brand and it lights up the ground and any enemy in the immediate area. The enemies covered in oil take extra damage from the fire. They are roasting up real good. You deploy your turret and then move in to attack with your sword. Every swing is eviscerating any foe that happens to be covered in flames, as they die a swarm of bitters crawls out of their corpse thanks to the turret you put down. The bitters help with taking on the rest of the hoard. Before long, everything is dead and you’re left standing
Situations like this are the norm in Dead Cells. It is full of these frenetic bursts of action that have kept me coming back time after time.
Developers with ears and sensible progression
There are a ton of rouge-lite/likes out there all with their own take on how progression should work. Games like The Binding of Isaac are notorious for peeling back new layers of the game as you progress through. New floors and unlocks tied to them; new bosses and enemies. Dead Cells presents a similar path. As you progress through several runs (if you’re like me this will be in the hundreds before you unlock everything) you’ll unlock runes that allow you to access new areas. Each new area contains its own brand of new fearsome foes to fight and generally contain a higher tier of blueprints than areas you’ve already been in.
What’s more interesting is that opportunities to use runes that you’ve yet to unlock present themselves in almost every area of the game. So in addition to unlocking whole new areas, the runes also allow players to access even more parts of existing areas. These offshoots usually contain extra weapons or power-ups that would have been otherwise inaccessible and can sometimes help a ton at the beginning of a run.
Currently there are 5 runes in Dead Cells, but since the games debut on Steam, Motion Twin have added more than a few runes, areas, weapons, and enemies. I would be surprised if this didn’t continue till release and after. Especially considering how much Dead Cells has changed since its debut. Motion Twin has regularly posted developer logs and communicated with the community. The base three-colored system I mentioned above was entirely different on first release and has been changed with some further development by listening to the community. A look at their developer blog is proof of that. They even list changes as “Community suggestion.”
I think it’s important to support developers who support the community around their games. In a time where sometimes it feels like the developers never listen (looking at Bungie), it’s nice to know that some devs do have ears.
Intricate Pixel Art and Level Design
This last one will be short but man, this is one good looking game. If I had any friends that thought pixel art couldn’t be gorgeous, I would very likely show them Dead Cells. Multi-Layered backgrounds haven’t looked this good since parallax scrolling was invented.
Alright, maybe I’m being a bit hyperbolic, but seriously, Dead Cells is easy on the eyes. For the amount of carnage that can be happening on screen at any minute, everything is easily defined and readable. Every weapon or enemy attack animation is fluid and incredibly well designed. You can really see and feel the weightless slash of the Balanced Blade vs the slow brutal smash of The Nutcracker. The level of detail really brings out the character in every new monster you meet.
Every new area looks and feels completely different.
The Toxic Sewers are claustrophobic and soaked in whatever unspeakable sludge ends up there, the Ramparts are far reaching lofty towers, and the Ossuary feels darkly demonic. Every single area in the game has its own unique and well defined character. I would go as far to say that the style and flair in this game is almost unparalleled currently. It is really beautiful to see in motion and shows how much Motion Twin care.
Play this game!
I can’t stress enough how much fun I’ve had with Dead Cells. It can be brutal and frustrating, but every run is different and exciting. The seemingly limitless combination of weapons and skills and the deliciously vicious synergies of everything coming together is truly remarkable. Motion Twin seems dedicated to the community that’s surrounded the game and is breathing life into it. If you’re a fan of metroidvanias, this is a no brainer. If you’re a fan of Rogue-likes, this is a no brainer. If you enjoy hacking and/or slashing on any level, this is a no brainer. Luckily for you non-PC savvy folks Motion Twin said they’re bringing Dead Cells to all major consoles this year! I can’t wait to rock it on my Switch!
PLAY THIS GAME! GO PLAY DEAD CELLS! WHY ARE YOU STILL READING THIS?!
When it comes to quality, indie game titles can be something of a mixed bag (am looking at you, Troll and I). But when it comes to the Nintendo Switch, however, it’s hard to deny the incredible amount of high-quality titles that have been overrunning the platform as of late. It started off with Golf Story – a title which charmed the pants off of me. And now, the critically acclaimed likes of Cat Quest, Night in the Woods, Dandara, Gonner, Owlboy, Super Meat Boy, Celeste, Enter the Gungeon, and countless others like it, can be found on the eShop.
It comes as no surprise as Nintendo went out of its way to create the Nindies, a showcase event meant to highlight indie titles headed to the Switch. But with an ever-expanding library of quality indie games coming to the Switch, could Nintendo become suddenly inundated with titles that are less than award-worthy, and perhaps even garbage-tier? As more developers may look to cash-in on the Switch’s massive success, is a rush of sub-par content imminent on Nintendo’s darling portable-console hybrid?
When Sony announced the Playstation 4, it was done so alongside a huge emphasis on indie titles. The PS4 was to be all about games, a sentiment which seemed to be a complete 180° pivot from the previous generation’s bravado. A quick glance at the Playstation Store confirms that Sony has made good on its promise – currently 900+ indie titles can be found on the PS4’s digital shop. NINE. HUNDRED. And 575 of those titles – at least as of November 2017 – are exclusive to the Playstation 4. The sheer volume of games available to the consumer is staggering and even a little daunting. While I can’t fault Sony for making good on its promise of more games, the PS4’s indie offerings don’t even appear to be properly curated. As a consumer, having to wade through a waist-deep pile of trash just to get to something of value is a huge issue. Fortunately for Nintendo, and ultimately the consumer, the solution to a would-be problem might be easier than anticipated.
On the flip side of Sony’s flood of questionable indie titles is Steam. Currently there are 1,000 titles under the “New and Trending” tab alone. Now you might wonder, ‘how can anyone decipher what is worth purchasing in a shop with so much to offer? The answer appears to be a community regulated curation with Steam Curator. Steam, being a fairly open publishing platform, is a great platform for new developers to launch their games; it just makes sense given how community driven the service is. But where does that leave Nintendo? I don’t trust a company that uses Friends Codes to put together a comprehensive, community-driven curation system. What option remains?
There was a time when Nintendo branded quality with its very own seal of approval. It signaled to the consumer that you were making a smart purchase, but given the scale of the booming independent gaming market, there is clear cause for concern. One only has to look at the video game crash of 1983 to see the obvious dangers of low quality titles flooding the marketplace; brand loyalty goes right out the window the moment the consumer base feels ripped off. The Big N was able to remedy this by making use of the Nintendo Seal of Approval. Now that the classic seal is gone and with the eShop apparently releasing indie games with every other heartbeat, the eShop may become a Steam 2.0.
To be fair, I am all for indie game developers being able to release their games on the Switch without a whole lot of red tape. And as I stated earlier the Switch has been host to some of the most enjoyable indie experiences of my gaming career with tons to look forward to in 2018 (HOLLOW KNIGHT!!). I play a whole lot of indie games and talk about them weekly on Nintendo Duel Screens. However, I fear for the day when the likes of I Am Mayo or god forbid Energy Cycle make their way to the front page of the eShop. Having an incredible selection of indie titles to round out the Switch’s library in-between AAA releases like Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey is vital to the platform’s success. Dropping bombs like Party Planet and Acorn Tactics is not doing Nintendo any favors. If Nintendo isn’t careful, it may just end up bringing back that Seal of Approval. I just hope for Nintendo’s sake, that Nintendo brings the seal back because it wants to, and not because it has to.
The world known as Salt was once home to a peaceful, prosperous people. It was a world populated by musicians and poets, great thinkers and dreamers. Until one day, a dark oppressive force plunged Salt into ruin. Thus begins the tale of Dandara, a remarkable 2D platformer that is unlike any game I have ever experienced.
I honestly did not know what to expect when I sat down to play Dandara for the first time, other than the exploratory structure of the classic ‘metroidvania’ formula. And yes, it does fulfill the necessary requirements of that often overused, yet incredibly accurate descriptor: a free-to-explore map with access to new or previously inaccessible areas guarded by either gaining of new abilities or overcoming an obstacle. But where Dandara differs from the very games it draws inspiration from lies in how it handles movement. Tradition dictates that you, the player, use the directional pad to move about the character on a 2D plane. Dandara ditches the convention entirely and instead opts to relegate movement through jumping and clinging to surfaces around you. When Dandara jumps to a surface, you are able to aim where she can jump to next with the analog stick. Most of the time you are confined to a 180 ° radius of where you can aim Dandara but if you injured and knocked off of a surface, you are given a full 360 ° radius to move freely and regather yourself.
While it might sound limiting at first, and even a tad frustrating (what do you mean I can’t just walk?!), I have never felt such a sense of freedom of movement in a game. Watching Dandara’s gravity defying antics is an absolute marvel to be a part of, made all the more satisfying as you get a better handle of the control scheme. Admittedly, it did take me some getting used to but once I get the hang of Dandara’s movement, I could not help but smile. It was as if Dandara and I were locked in a dance, an elegant ballet, and the world of Salt was our stage. And the same could be said about the game’s combat mechanics.
Any ‘metroidvania’ title worth its salt…(I’ll see myself out) features a decent amount of combat. Fortunately, Dandara is not only packed with a wide variety of too-cute-to-kill enemy sprites, it also features an assortment of weapons and abilities to make all that inevitable killing fun. Aside from your standard blaster (which can fire in after you charge it for a short period of time) Dandara eventually gains access to green-colored missiles that pulverize stone barriers and deal massive amounts of damage (just like Metroid!!), purple projectiles which ricochet off of surfaces to get to those almost but no quite out-of-reach enemies, and even a defensive shield to guard against oncoming attacks. Your weapons and abilities coupled with the slick and precise movement mechanics, make for intense moment-to-moment gameplay. The enemy placement and layout of the world constantly keep you on yours toes: one moment you’ll be able to observe a situation and execute an attack slowly and methodically and other times you will be frantically jumping, shooting, and then retreating while formulating a plan on the fly. And it’s all due to Dandara’s most notable achievement – its level design.
Dandara’s breathtaking visuals do the ‘metroidvania’ label justice. As a HUGE fan of retro graphics, I completely fell in love with the artistic design and the well-thought out placement of platforms. Each room can often feel like a small puzzle as getting from Point A to Point B is never as obvious as it seems. The game starts off very subtle but eventually the environment itself takes part in how you navigate around the room. From physics-based platforms and alters that can extend Dandara’s jumping reach, it is clear that the developer put a lot of thought and attention to the massive world.
While the 8-Bit era undoubtedly played a factor in Dandara’s design there is an…inescapable…(ugh, and I really hate to make this comparison because it’s lazy but here I am doing it anyway) Dark Souls influence at play here. In an interview with Long Hat House (which can be listened to here) the team acknowledged the elements it borrowed from From Software’s wildly successful Dark Souls series and thankfully it turns out to be more than I initially anticipated. Scattered throughout the world of Salt are campsites (bonfires) where Dandara can rest and use her accumulated essence (souls) to upgrade her base stats and skills such as maximum health, the potency of her health vials (Estus Flask), and so on. Campsites also act as a respawn point when you die…and you will die…a lot. When you die or meet ‘oblivion’ as the game puts (so dramatic), you leave a ghostly echo of yourself in the spot where you met your demise along with all the souls you’ve gathered – I mean essence, SORRY! If you are able to reach your floating phantasmal form, you regain all the essence you lost – no harm, no foul. I get this. Countless of other games have done it. It isn’t anything new. But what I wasn’t expecting these borrowed mechanics to do was play into to Dandara’s overall world-building and help shape the narrative that is compelling you to move forward.
There is a painfully real and haunting aspect to Dandara I honestly was not expecting. Whenever you reclaim your spirit after you die, a text prompt appears which simply states “Dandara – Serious Injuries” referencing how you met your end. Throughout the world of Salt you will encounter the souls of its dead citizens…and the game does not pull any emotional punches when it describes how they met their tragic fate. One soul I discovered early on revealed that the individual I came across had died of sadness. And that just hit me in a way that I wasn’t really prepared for, that I had to take a moment to take that in. It lends a certain authenticity to Dandara, an element that a lot of modern big-budget titles tend to overlook.
In terms of negatives, there isn’t much I encountered that marred the overall experience. The map system could be better as I often felt it was working more against me that it was for me. Defying gravity comes with sudden perspective changes, as the rooms you occupy shift and rotate to accommodate your movement. The only issue is that while the room shifts, the map remains static so referencing it was more of a head-scratcher than anything else. Another gripe I have is with the button-layout. Why…oh why..do developers insist on mapping ‘jump’ and ‘shoot’ to anything but ‘B’ and ‘A’, respectively. As a classically trained gamer, that layout is embedded deep into my muscle memory. It does me no good when I’m scrambling in an intense shootout and I accidentally use a health vial when I intended to shoot. And if you are hellbent on mapping the buttons in your own weird way, please…PLEASE give me the option to remap it myself. Okay, rant over. Moving on.
Dandara has a lot of heart and you can see it coded into every single pixel. It is clear that Long Hat House put a lot of love into Dandara and the labor of that love is more than obvious. It is an experience I won’t soon forget and I encourage you to not let Dandara slip passed you. It won’t offer much in terms of replayability, but at the price of $11.99, it doesn’t need to. What you have is a beautifully crafted title with the gameplay and soundtrack to make it one of the most unforgettable indie games of the year.
Nintendo Switch Review Code for Dandara provided to Proven Gamer courtesy of publisher Raw Fury.
It’s been a long while since we last saw a brand new, proper Mario game. The last true new iteration of the classic plumber was Super Mario Galaxy 2, released for the Nintendo Wii in 2010. Since then, every Mario game released, with the exception of Super Mario Maker, has been an enhanced remake of a previously released titles, doing their best to capture the attention of the Wii U’s uninterested audience. Now, fresh off the smashing success of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo is poised to end the year off with a resounding performance with the release of Super Mario Odyssey, which releases on Friday October 27th. To capture the pure joy and feeling of the highly anticipated release, Nintendo has revealed a swinging launch trailer, inspired by the lively performances of Broadway.
The trailer showcases snippets of what the game will feature, from using Mario’s hat to become different beings to the new worlds he will visit. The trailer shows all this against the backdrop of a talented cast of choreographed dancers and a jazzy soundtrack, sung by a smooth singer. The trailer evokes the style and life of the city, while also evoking the pure fun and wonder of discovery the game is surely to have.
Super Mario Odyssey releases October 27th, 2017 exclusively for the Nintendo Switch.
Since it was announced this past winter, Rogue Trooper Redux, from English developer Rebellion, has been gaining a lot of traction and momentum. From PAX West to New York Comic-Con, Rogue Trooper Redux has garnered a lot of attention — and for good reason. Originally released in 2006 for the PlayStation 2, Rogue Trooper innovated many gaming mechanics that we see today as standard. From cover-shooting to the combat capabilities, Rogue Trooper blazed a trail for others to follow. Now, Rogue Trooper is set to storm the battlefield once more with Rogue Trooper Redux for the PlayStation 4, Steam, Switch, and Xbox One. To accompany the launch of the game, Rebellion has released a 101 trailer to show players the basics of what to expect on the battlefields of Nu-Earth.
Based on the 2000AD comic of the same name, Rogue Trooper Redux takes place in the distant future, where mankind has colonized several dozen star systems. They discover a new planet and name it Nu-Earth, but when the drums of war pound, all hell breaks loose. A massive intergalactic civil war is waged over Nu-Earth, engulfing the planet in poisonous gases and making it uninhabitable. Still, the warring sides continue to fight, fitting their soldiers in combat HAZMAT suits that are more dangerous than actual fighting. To adapt, one side has created the Rogue Trooper, a special bio-engineered soldier who is built to survive the fields of Nu-Earth and deliver a vastly superior advantage with cutting-edge firepower and enhanced physical abilities. Following a surprise attack turned massacre, you are the lone survivor (of your squad) — but your squad isn’t necessarily dead. As you recover each member of your team, their consciousnesses are transplanted into bio-chips and added to your primary weapon. They are alive again, and they will give you live tactical feedback as you fight through the enemy. The war is upon you; it’s time for you to go rogue.
Rogue Trooper arrives next week for PS4, Xbox One, PC and Nintendo Switch.
Golf Story is one of those games that makes very little sense on paper. Trying to explain the premise is not an easy task, but it only takes a few moments with the game to realize just how special this game really is. It is a fantastic blend of RPG games of old and the simple game play of Nintendo’s Golf that everybody should give themselves a chance to fall in love with.
Golf Story follows the journey of a young man who may have been a great golf prodigy in his formative years. As your father teaches you the basics, your natural talent has your father drooling over the possibilities of your future in golf. You start to get the sense that you are the “chosen one”, which is a nice throwback to basically every Final Fantasy game ever made, then abruptly we fade to black and come back 20 years later. Now a young man who has since given up his golfing dreams, you are looking to reclaim your aspirations at the very golf course that your father taught you. But things have changed here at Wellworn Grove, and not for the better.
Wellworn Grove is falling apart. Mollrats are stealing balls and chewing the course apart, the owner is more concerned with making money at any cost, and everybody is a cranky-pants. As you make your way through Wellworn Grove you are greeted by people who would rather have nothing to do with you. You want to prove yourself worthy of being coached by the towns coach and you must run around and show off your golf skills, help some people with menial tasks, and help get Wellworn Grove back on top of the golfing world all while acquiring new skills and equipment to help you on your journey to greatness.
The writing in Golf Story is cheeky, funny, and all around clever. There are no voice overs, but it uses really clever text tricks to convey emotions otherwise. Chat bubbles will tilt, text would shake, and in some cases the speed of the text will even change to help drive home how a character feels. It is also a nice touch that the main character isn’t a silent protagonist, but rather a goofy character in his own right. There is a strange “Stepford Wives” feel to the townspeople as you progress that leaves you feeling uneasy yet compelled to continue. Unfortunately, you won’t see any choices to make during dialog, which can be a bummer, but Golf Story has a story to tell and we are all along for the ride.
The game has you exploring 8 different golf courses, which are basically towns. Each course has a unique set of characters inhabiting them and its own set of crazy challenges. The isometric 2D golf mechanic makes things simple enough, but still has a degree of challenge that is welcomed. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really utilize the potential hazards on the courses, and it doesn’t give you much information about the green other than wind speed , direction and slope of the ground. This could have you using a little trial and error on some shots, rather than knowing exactly where and how to hit your tee shots.
Aside from playing golf matches against CPU opponents, you will complete challenges but nearly all of them involve you trying to hit a certain target with a golf ball or disc (yes there is also Disc Golf). When you complete these tasks you are rewarded with money and experience points. The money can be used to buy better clubs, while experience points level you up so you can increase some stats like Power and Spin. All in all, you level up pretty quickly, but there are no real optional side missions that you can miss, so most players will be leveling up in similar ways. This leaves very little in the re-playability of the single player campaign.
The aforementioned single player campaign should take between 12-16 hours to complete, but you won’t really feel compelled to play through it a second time. With that being said, there is some competitive multiplayer but only local, which is a bit of a bummer.
Golf Story is a charming game with a ton to offer fans of both the Golf Genre and the RPG genre, without overbearing the player with the typical tropes of the latter. Its various courses, challenges, and quirky side missions will leave players doing “one more mission” until the wee hours of the morning. I do wish that there were some more varied side missions, however. If you have a switch and want to fall in love with a new franchise that oozes adorable whit, charm, and engaging yet intuitive game play – Golf Story is your game.