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Hollow Knight (Nintendo Switch) | Review

Posted on October 8, 2018 by Meghan Kass

Version Played: Nintendo Switch

Ever since Hollow Knight had come out on the PC last year by developer Team Cherry, I had heard rave reviews about it. I heard about it fondly from friends and fellow reviewers alike and since I am not as much a PC gamer, it made me immensely happy to see there were plans to bring it to my favorite console, the Switch. Now with the game out on Nintendo Switch it is time to take a look at Hollow Kniogt as I am a huge fan of dark, Gothic aesthetic and I also enjoy very much enjoy Metroidvania style games.

For the uninitiated, Metroidvania style games are a sub genre of action adventure games that combine mechanics of both Metroid and Castlevania games. Some key features are large maps to explore that have some parts blocked by obstacles that need to be overcome usually through the process of obtaining special items or skills. They are typically sidescrolling platformers with very careful attention to character and level design.  Story, level design and character progression need to be tightly woven together to successfully pull off a Metroidvania game – for a classic example of this done right think Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.  An engaging metroidvania needs to encourage exploration and experimentation to get the player immersed in the world and characters. With all of this in mind, Hollow Knight had a lot to pack in such a small package of sidescrolling platforming, map exploration, upgrades and engaging lore. I was certainly hoping the game could live up to the hype surrounding it.

The first immediate thing I noticed with Hollow Knight is the atmosphere and aesthetic.  Now, This may be the horror fan in me desensitized to a lot of horrific imagery, but I found the atmosphere to be almost whimsical along with Gothic. Yes, there are skulls, spikes, insects and a dark, bleak color palate, but there is also a charming fairy tale like feeling to the game – bold hand drawn animation combined with post-processing effects and smart lighting lighting choices gives the world of Hallow Nest an otherworldly feel . The Knight as a character, as well as others, are certainly designed in a very cute illustrative way and this helps with the fairy tale feeling.

The plot also inspires thoughts of old fairy tales as well. The story of a Knight fighting against the evil deity like creature ruling as Queen of the bug-kind and meeting all sorts of monster and friend alike along the way. Much like Bandai Namco’s Dark Souls series – the large calamity has already occurred. Rather than being “the chosen one” or an anointed savior, The Knight is learning about the environment and picking up the pieces alongside the player. Even with that said there are great battles, deception and a hero’s inner conflict as well for good measure to be found within. All of this combined makes everything very dream like, surreal, and it all just won me over and showed me why so many others have fell in love with Hallow Knight.

As with many Metroidvania games, this game has many difficulty spikes to be found within the exploitable caverns, lush forests and other environments. I am not usually turned off by games that are designed to be challenging – but there were times with my time with Hallow Knight that I had wished there was a few changes to make the game easier. I understand many people were satisfied with the games difficulty level, but other difficulty modes might have been welcome and something for Team Cherry to maybe consider when creating future games. Hallow Knight doesn’t provide a lot of modern quality of life mechanics that have become common place – things like completely visible maps and even way-markers that lead the way are present when the Knight begins their journey. Potential players will need to pay attention to areas of the map that are impassable as they likely will become paths to new areas with just a single upgrade.

Overall, Hollow Knight is a very pleasant game that provides an old school challenge and some very challenging optional content for those looking for a real trial. Its a great addition to the Switch and great to curl up in bed with on a dark and stormy night. If you desire another challenging side-scrolling Metroidvania game with a beautiful Gothic aesthetic and enchanting story / setting, this is definitely a title to pick up, especially for the Switch. Get yourself immersed in this beautiful world that was so carefully designed with intricate detail and nuance. The developers clearly are passionate about their project and made something very special in a genre that has nearly saturated the market with both good and bad games. This game is anything but hollow and deserves the attention it gets.



Touhou Genso Wanderer and Double Focus | REVIEW

Posted on May 9, 2017 by Les Major

Touhou Games

I have to admit something. When I first got into this game, and the accompanying Touhou Double Focus, I had no clue what the series really was. Being a happy little social media butterfly, I’d seen the characters scattered across the web and loving crafting in a billion fan art pieces. When I saw a mystery dungeon like title and a side scrolling metroidvania game were on the way in the same pack, I definitely wanted to learn more!

From an outside perspective, the quirks of the characters are surprisingly easy to get into. Between both games I was able to get into and enjoy the cast with no prior understanding of the franchise. I think this is the strong suit of the series and something very positive since NIS America has quite the lineup of these titles. It’s easy for Touhou to find a spot in your heart.

Touhou Genso Wanderer is definitely my favorite game out of the pack, but Double Focus is just a freebie add on anyway it seems. Not to say it isn’t an enjoyable game too. I’m very glad it was included. Though the mystery dungeon rogue-like action of Genso Wanderer kept me playing. First off, I’m one of those people who likes NIS games for the grind. There’s a mix of that here. When you return to the shrine which is your very start point of the game, Reimu reverts back to level one. It’s not quite like The Guided Fate Paradox however. This isn’t just a cosmetic leveling down. Instead, your main focus is avoiding restarting, or instead, leveling up your gear through fighting. There are goodies back at the shrine though too, so leveling down is going to happen.

Early on, you’ll come across a Yokai village that works as the main hub for the game and creates an interesting outset for the story as well. Overall, Reimu is a shrine maiden who should be destroying these spirits. Instead, she’s basically exploiting them to fight her way to a tower where a demon possessed friend has taken up residence. There is some good variety to the dungeon tile sets, tons of items to collect, fill your inventory with, and then sell off, and things to upgrade around town. A group of Kappas even run a shop that allows Reimu to teleport around or upgrade her weapons.

In general, it’s your usual mystery dungeon adventure, but it’s a fun one. I like the story and I’m glad to see there’s some form of leveling progress. The challenge is certainly here and you are at the mercy of some random hard spots. In general though I’d say most of what I experienced was a decent challenge. Nothing was too insane, but maybe I was just lucky. The village itself is populated by a bunch of characters from the series and your first interaction with the village is going around and getting to know everyone. Even the enemies themselves are clones of the characters of Touhou.

Touhou Double Focus on the other hand is an action game that comes included with Touhou Genso Wanderer. It’s sort of like a metroidvania game that I desperately wanted to have a leveling up system. While the game is fun, if it just had a few more weeks of polish from the original developer it really could have been a classic. Don’t get me wrong, I like Double Focus but it feels very basic at times. Surprisingly enough, boss battles did seem fun and challenging, but the main game seemed to be the awkward frustration. Just wandering around I felt that some enemies had an unfair hit advantage at times and it just lead me to avoiding enemies altogether. I would have rather leveled a bit (which you can’t do) and destroyed them more easily.

You do gain a lot of skills however that you can find throughout the game that benefit both Aya and Momiji. Aya for one is able to channel crow abilites that allow her to hover, while Momiji can run up walls and seems to be part dog. These skills do quickly add to your exploration and it does give a really great feel that you’d expect from a game like this. The artwork itself is quite nice, especially with the characters. It’s just the random enemies that seem to beat you down too much and made exploration more difficult than it should be. You can switch between characters on the fly, much like Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin.

There’s a good variety of levels, and while the game seems on the shorter side, I got the snot beat out of my characters too fast to really know. Interestingly the health bar seems to deplete from the side that represents that character. So Aya and Momiji share one health bar, but it depletes from left or right depending on who you play as. This can be a trippy effect at first until you realize what’s going on. You can get some health increasing items along the way too, so there is at least that. Apparently there is a way to turn on respawn points, but I didn’t realize that and often went back to save at the start. I was quite disappointed when my first death essentially restarted the game since I didn’t know about saving.

My main complaint was that I found the menu to not be obvious enough. Being a reporter, Aya quickly gains a skill to take photos. These are basically snapshops of enemies and friends saved to a gallery. It took me forever and searching online to figure out how to access that. I think it was something incredibly basic, but I just didn’t think about it. Which goes along with what I said earlier that with just a bit more polish, this really could have been a classic title. Some of the action is spot on. Other times it just feels like I had a few cheap deaths along the way. There is a section early on though to replay boss battles. So that’s sweet at least.

Together, this is a really nice pack. With the difference between the Canadian and US dollar, it’s a staggering hit when you see it on store shelves however. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun! I just don’t know if the game shouldn’t have been reduced by a bit on PS4 to bolster sales. Yet again though the US price is a lot more fair. $50 for a double pack of titles isn’t bad and if you get into the mechanics of Genso Wanderer, you’ll certainly get your monies worth in time spent.


Momodora Is A Metroidvania Worth Exploring

Posted on August 21, 2016 by Les Major

Momodora First Boss

It’s been a little while since Momodora: Reverie Under the Moonlight was released on Steam, but it’s definitely a title Metroidvania fans should take a look at. The game is even currently on sale at just $6.99 USD! I’ve been quite the fan of titles like this over the years. The Castlevania DS games really drew me into the genre and I’ve been playing them ever since. This entry in the Momodora series really scratches that itch. There’s goodies to find, bosses to fight, and items to purchase.

That and really, what other game do you play as a skilled archer who beats enemies down with a leaf melee weapon? It’s a good adventure to go on and took me about seven hours to wander through, get up my gear, and take down the final boss. The only thing I would have wanted is leveling up, which isn’t in the game, but that’s just because I’m a nerd for stuff like that. I got stuck the rare time, but with enough persistence and mixing up tactics I made it through.

Give the trailer a look and see if it’s a title you’d enjoy. I love the visuals!


The Fall Part 2: Unbound is coming in 2017

Posted on August 4, 2016 by Fionna Schweit

Independent developer Over The Moon today announced that The Fall Part 2: Unbound, the second chapter in the award-winning The Fall Trilogy, will be releasing in Q1 2017 for Microsoft Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Wii U, PC, Mac and Linux.

The Fall Part 2: Unbound picks up right where we left ARID at the end of The Fall. Featuring new characters, new gameplay twists, superb art direction and an even more engrossing story, The Fall Part 2: Unbound is a bold leap forward for the franchise.

John Warner, Director of Over The Moon said “The Fall Part 2: Unbound takes everything we learned with The Fall, adds to it and improves on it exponentially. After seeing the reception The Fall received, we knew that people were excited to see ARID’s journey of self-discovery continue. We want The Fall Part 2: Unbound to deliver a thought-provoking story that will linger with players long after they finish the game, with gameplay that’s as fitting with that story as it is addictive.”

thefall part 2

The Fall series combines Metroidvania-style exploration and combat with point and click adventure-style puzzles to create a fresh experience that fans of both genres will love. Players control ARID, an AI on-board a futuristic combat suit. In the original game, ARID was lost on an alien planet and struggled to save the life of the severely injured human occupant of the suit.  After the unhinging events of part 1, ARID’s very existence is threatened when she is ejected from her body and projected onto a vast global network. In a desperate attempt to save herself, ARID invades and attempts to control several other robots she finds there, each with wildly different personalities and gameplay styles. Will ARID successfully enlist their help before it’s too late? One thing’s for certain – the process will change her.
With a deep, engaging narrative; fully realized, layered characters; stark, minimalist art direction and sparse, haunting sound design; The Fall Part 2: Unbound is Metroidvania for a new generation.


I’m Not Alone In Wanting A New 2D Metroid-vania

Posted on May 12, 2015 by Les Major

Koji Igarashi won a victory for all gamers who have wanted more 2D Castlevania RPG styled action. In a stunning victory, his Kickstarter has almost generated a million dollars more than requested. It’s clear that gamers have been eager to play more of Iga’s creations.

It’s wonderful that we’re getting a new Igavania as it’s being cutely called, but the way is certainly disheartening. Instead of the big exciting climax Castlevania was building to, we’ve had to go around copyright and support a new franchise in Bloodstained. Don’t get me wrong I’m sure Bloodstained will be fantastic and I’ll love it! The more of these games the better!

I’m just sad we’ll never get that final climax in a 2D Castlevania game. It felt like Castlevania was potentially leading up to a gripping ending with a final battle of all time which would occur in the year 2000. Thoughts of series favorites rushing through stages designed to look like modern day cities infused with the castle itself in a bustling city were something I’d eagerly anticipated. Whether that was the actual direct is up for speculation but instead we’ll need to move on. Much like Mega Man fans have had to besides enjoying the adventures from Archie Comics.

Hopefully we won’t need to worry about more titles going this way in the future. Classic franchises shouldn’t be forgotten. It actually makes one wonder just how many games are out there that fans would clamor for a sequel to. Personally, besides Castlevania being top on my list and Bloodstained being a dream come true, I’d love to see a new Doki Doki Panic / Super Mario Bros 2 USA game. With the success stories on Kickstarter lately, it makes me think that I’m not alone in many of my ideas either.

While we’re on the topic, it wouldn’t be a bad idea for Nintendo to release a new Super Metroid styled game. Just look at the success of this Kickstarter alone which focuses on Metroid like exploration.

Congratulations Koji Igarashi! You and those who work with you have given us some of the best entertainment we could have asked for. We’re eager to welcome Bloodstained with open arms and continue our adventures in your new world.


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