Out of nowhere, Konami decided to remind everyone that they used to make video games by releasing Castlevania: Symphony of the Night for iOS this week. Widely celebrated as one of the greatest games of the 32-bit era, Symphony of the Night basically solidified the gameplay formula for “Metroidvania”-style games.
Because this release came as a surprise, I haven’t had the chance to put the time in for a full-on review, but here are some things you should know about this mobile version of Symphony of the Night.
The Backstory A young apprentice’s master is slain and the fate of the world is unexpectedly thrust into the young one’s hands. Classic adventure game stuff. The same can be said for the reappearance of forgotten evils and the requisite epic quest. These are all themes that are fairly typical of the genre but that doesn’t mean Swordigo doesn’t put them to good use.
The Gameplay Swordigo harkens back to classic 2D adventures. Platforming puzzles, block pushing, melee combat, magic, and the constant acquisition of new gear that bestows new abilities and grants access to previously inaccessible areas are all prevalent. On top of all these classic gameplay tropes is a simple RPG character leveling system that also allows players to tweak their character to fit their play-style. Like to get in close and wreck stuff? Upgrade attack strength. That kind of thing.
How does it Compare? The classic formula of finding new equipment in order to reach new areas and find more new equipment in order to reach other new areas has been around for quite some time, but there’s one game that stands above the rest and will forever be the standard that all other genre entries are held to. I am of course referring to Metroid. And while Swordigo’s protagonist might not be much of an intergalactic bounty hunter or carry much in the way of high tech alien weaponry (or have been raised by bird-people), he’s every bit a kindred spirit to Samus Aran.
There’s no shortage of games on the App Store that try to utilize the classic back-tracking adventure formula, but few pull it off with as much finesse as Swordigo. iOS users might not be able to enjoy the adventures of Ms. Aran or Mr. Belmont at an official capacity, but it’s nice to know that there are alternatives out there that scratch this particular itch incredibly well.
*NOTE: “Console-quality” refers to the quality of the experience, not just the graphics. This is about the depth of gameplay, content, and in some cases how accurately it portrays the ideals of its console counterpart.*
Developer: Astronot Price: $1.99
Version Reviewed: 1.0
Device Reviewed On: iPad 2, iPod touch 4
Graphics / Sound Rating: Game Controls Rating: Gameplay Rating: Replay Value Rating:
Like Metroid games? Specifcially, the original Metroid? Then check out Astronot. This platformer kicks it real old school, and that may turn people off, or be extremely satisfying.
Astronot is an open-world platformer where players control a space garbage man, who gets knocked on to a strange planet after a spaceship explosion. The game drops players in the middle of a situation, and it basically is up to them to figure out what’s going on from there. Good luck, because Astronot ain’t sharing any hints! Players can jump and shoot, and can kill bosses to find powerups to help access other parts of the game. Stay away from the glowing lava, because it is deadly.
Astronot is old-school hard, and it is engrossing because it is this expansive world (the game will take a while to beat, let’s just say that), and it challenges the player to figure out what’s happening, and to survive. It is extremely difficult, and it revels in its difficulty.
So here’s the thing: there’s no map in this game. It is extremely easy to get lost here. There is a lot of idle wandering to be done before upgrades and anything to help progress through the game is really found. The game doesn’t say much about what’s going on either. It’s all about player discovery, and it is not meant to be fair, especially as there are spots where the player could jump blindly into lav, and save points are not commonplace. An update for Astronot has been submitted immediately after launch that clears up a couple of bugs, and in later updates a full-screen option and iCade controls will be supported.
I simultaneously find myself wishing that Astronot held my hand a bit more, that the bosses didn’t seem so impossible right at the beginning, and that there were a few more save points, but I can also appreciate what is going on here. This game could have been released in the 1980s and no one would have thought it was made in 2012. There’s a Lite version, and it’s worth checking out just to get a feel for what the game is. I’m simultaneously engrossed yet exceedingly frustrated.
In short, it means that Astronot nails the retro experience like no other game on the App Store ever has. That’s not always in the player’s best interest, but for those willing to deal with the challenge, it is rewarding.