This week’s post comes following a relaxing weekend of just snacking and slacking…and video games. Being somewhat unsure what I was wanted to write about, what I’ve decided to do is highlight some Metroidvania games that I’ve been enjoying anywhere between the last few days or months….and NOT have Metroid or Castlevania in the title. The massive successes of games like Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night have spawned countless action-adventure games emphasizing exploration and acquiring newer, more powerful upgrades as you venture around the map.
Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
I said games NOT containing the word Castlevania in the title…but I’m going to start with Bloodstained anyway. Koji Igarashi’s successes with Symphony of the Night on the Playstation and the subsequent Castlevania releases for Game Boy Advance made the eventual release of Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night a no-brainer to pick up this past summer. I love nearly everything about this game – the setting, music, art style, and characters are all great! Everything you loved about SotN or the Castlevania GBA games is found in Bloodstained. My only complaint would only be the fact I purchased the Switch version rather than PS4 which has been plagued by a number of gameplay issues. Most of the issues have been patched out, but there’s still just enough of a drop in framerate and loading issues due to the inferior horsepower of Nintendo’s otherwise phenomenal hybrid console.
A game that was described as Dark Souls meets Super Metroid, Blasphemous was an indie game I knew immediately I was going to play. Souls-type is a more recent description of a sub-genre due to the popularity and influence of From Software’s Dark Souls games. The game’s visuals and gameplay are very grisly and morbid as the setting takes much inspiration from the Black Plague and Inquisition during the Middle Ages. The heavy religious themes and imagery focus on things like pain, suffering, and guilt as you control the Penitent One brandishing a giant sword the Mea Culpa as you venture across Cvstodia, collecting Rosary Beads and Prayers to uncover the mystery around the Silent Sorrow which has decimated the population. Blasphemous is certainly not an easy game; traditional hack and slash mechanics are not enough to survive the merciless creatures of Cvstodai, but one’s survival requires a more methodical approach, as you would find in From Software games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. The giant bosses you face wouldn’t feel out of place in a Souls game. The game is VERY unsettling(and difficult), but there’s still something compelling within its bleak world…
Ori and the Blind Forest
I finally purchased Ori and the Blind Forest recently on my Switch after knowing of the game for several years. The beautfiul visuals found in the forests of Nibel can be misleading as this game has already proven to be quite challenging, despite its colorful, friendly appearance. Many have sung the praises of this charming Metroidvania title and are eagerly anticipating its sequel Ori and the Will of the Wisps, which releases on February 11. My biggest complaint of the game is the jumping feels a little too light and “floaty” making precise jumps difficult, along with the feeling of any weapons/attacks I have seem vastly underpowered, even for a game of this type which emphasizes acquiring upgrades to your weapons and attacks. I have only played Ori and the Blind Forest for about three hours, so here’s hoping this is just something I’m overly critical about in the initial stages of this gorgeous game.
In casually perusing various gaming publications, I came across Gato Roboto, which immediately had me sold using keywords like: “Metroidvania”, “Cats”, and “Mech-suit”. Developed by doinksoft and published by Devolver Digital, Gato Robot was released this past summer and was an instant purchase, especially given the meager release price of $5. I wrote up a summary of my playthrough of Gato Roboto a few months ago, cringy use of “Mewtroidvania” and all. At its worst, one could describe this rather short game simply as “Metroid, but with a cat”. But, it still provided an enjoyable experience for only a few dollars and definitely worth checking out if your a fan Metroid games….a series greatly UNDERREPRESENTED on the Nintendo Switch(just sayin’).
Another acclaimed indie Metroidvania game, Hollow Knight was released back in 2017 on PC and later released for the Switch in 2018. Similar to Ori, Hollow Knight hides a significant challenge behind its visual charm. The hand-drawn animations and music are great, but combining with the responsive controls and moody, strange atmosphere create an incredible experience. What I found interesting about Hollow Knight is for a modern Metroidvania game, it was still rather cryptic concerning clues about where to go next and relies more on pure exploration, where many modern games will offer more hints and waypoints to provide a slightly more linear experience. Hollow Knight has gone on to become one of the definitive Metroidvania indie games of recent years, with fans also awaiting Team Cherry’s sequel – Hollow Knight: Silksong.
Any Metroidvania blog post is downright obliged to mention Axiom Verge. This indie game released back in 2015 takes only a split second glimpes of the art style and level design to notice a not-very-subtle Metroid influence. This is where I come clean and admit I have never finished the game, though I downloaded it a couple years ago, but ended up buried under a pile of Switch eShop games. I will have to rectify that issue shortly, especially with Axiom Verge 2 being announced during Nintendo’s most recent Nindies presentation for a Fall 2020 release date.
What are some of your favorite Metroidvania games? Is there anything that you have played recently that you enjoyed? Let me know in the comments! Thanks for reading!