Game Quicky: Mystik Belle – Enchanted Edition (Switch) ~ The Metroidvania Witchschool Adventure

Nintendo.com micrositeWikipedia entry

So, I was browsing the Nintendo Switch eShop one day and I came across this game. Without doing a lot of research, I bought it since it looked like an interesting indie Metroidvania game. I didn’t know that a big studio like WayForward helped the developers Last Dimension in publishing this game to the Nintendo Switch. For some reason, I didn’t realize that this game is a port either. Even with the subtitle “Enchanted Edition”. In any case, I was also surprised to learn that this game is created in GameMaker Studio. A tool I used to learn about game development when I was younger. But, with that said, how is the actual game? Is it worth your money or should you rather focus on the original edition or is this a game you could skip without hesitation? Well, I’m here to give you my opinion and while I invite you to leave a comment in the comment section with your thoughts and/or opinions on the game and/or the content of this article.

Witchschool

Usually, I write something myself to explain the story. But, the way the developers described the story is so good, I’m going to quote it here:

Being a student of mysterious art is a daunting task, doubly if you are Bell McFay – a freshman at the Hugmore Magic School. The teachers and staff are mean, I have few friends, and my grades are poor. Worst of all – Bell tends to be in the wrong place at worst. When she stayed up late to practice the magic of fire, for example tonight, but was instead assembled to confuse ancient rituals. And is there a better way to punish the unlucky first-grader than to prosecute her for an impossible job on the worst night of the year? Reproduce or exile Walpurgisnacht Brew. The sound of expulsion is beginning to improve as all types of spies hijack the school.

Official story on the eShop page

There is no voice acting in this game, so the story is told through text boxes and the environment design. Overall, the writing in this game is good. It sets up the arc of the game nicely without a lot of technobabble to pull you out of the experience. It’s quite difficult to review the story of this game because this game is somewhat short. This game takes around 5-ish hours to beat.

Usually, in these short games, I expect the story to grip me and focus more on telling a good story with interesting mechanics like Super Liminal or There Is No Game. Yet, this game doesn’t do that. I’m not saying that the story is bad, it’s just that this game focuses more on the gameplay and it’s puzzles than the overall story. This isn’t such a big negative in my eyes. While, yes, the setting and the atmosphere gives the story a lot of potential… I’m just extremely happy that it’s not bloated or is just filler to make the game longer. It’s to the point and quite enjoyable.

This game almost plays like your typical Metroidvania game. If you don’t know what a Metroidvania game is, compare it to games like Monster Tale, Blossom Tales, Lenna’s Inception amongst others. You explore large area’s where you learn new skills and abilities to help you on the way and discover secrets. Now, what this game does special is that this game has also a focus on puzzle elements and a whole inventory mechanic. In extremely rough terms, this game is a giant fetch quest in a Metroidvania game.

And it’s a lot of fun. I love exploring the school and trying to figure out which abilities I’m going to get to explore more of the castle. The responsive controls were so easy to learn that I was able to get the hang of the mechanics quite easily. The only thing that is different compared to your typical Metroidvania games is that there are no save rooms in this game. The game autosave when you change rooms. But that’s anything but a negative, to be honest.

Now, there are two ways to play this game. You can play through this game with warp chests, that help you with your inventory and makes the game a bit easier. It also gives you the option to choose if you restart the room or start from the counsel room. Or you have the harder difficulty, where you don’t have: warp chests, restart the room and the enemies hit harder. So, you can play on the difficulty you enjoy.

I really love shooting my fire spell around and leveling it up when I killed more enemies. I really liked running around this school with the amazing pixel art and animation. The game looks amazing, and the level design is well done for a Metroidvania game. While the level design makes the school feel less like a school since you don’t see a lot of classrooms and weird architecture, the pixel art is so good-looking and well-designed that it doesn’t bother me at all. (Only my really harsh critic side, tho.)

Not only does the game have amazing visuals and animations, the music is a jam. It’s amazing chiptune by Dan Rogers. I have listened to it while writing this article and I liked it so much that I decided to buy the whole soundtrack from Dan Roger’s Bandcamp I linked earlier.

Something that’s quite impressive is that this game is the love child of Andrew Bado. He placed so much love and care into the game. I mean, he even made an option where the dialogue is child-friendly in the PC version. Yes, an option! That’s something I can applaud. If only this came to the Switch version.

Almost there, Bell

I have thrown quite a lot of praise towards this game, but I’m sad to say that this game does make a few mistakes or things I don’t like. Let me first talk about the health system. There is one thing I didn’t like at all. That’s the way you heal. To heal, you have to pick up hearts that can randomly drop from enemies. The hearts drop where you kill the enemy. So, if you kill the enemy while it’s in the wall, since your projectiles go through into the wall… Your health pick-up is going to be stuck in the wall. And those don’t get attracted when you get close.

Also, there is no “quick heal” method or room. The health you have is the health you start with when you respawn or restart the room. So, when you are low on health, you better find a room where you can grind enemies to grind the health drops to get back to full health. This is one of the few moments where the game just stopped in its tracks, to be honest. Granted, you could restart at the counsel room with full health, but then you have to backtrack all the way… That isn’t fun.

Now, here is something I really found annoying. This game has an amazing mini-map, but why can’t I look at it with more detail? In this game, you have to gather and manage a lot of items. Around 60 in fact. And they are spread out over the whole map. But, remembering which item goes where is a real pain. Either having a quest list and/or which character is where it could have helped so much. Thankfully, the map is rather small, so going through all of it and trying out which item goes where wasn’t such a pain. Yet, I really missed a feature a like that in this game.

Sadly enough, there is actually a second thing I don’t like about the health system. There is this mechanic where you are able to kill enemies by just colliding with them. But this costs health. Now here is the issue with that, the sound effect and visual feedback is so similar to normally killing enemies it’s confusing. Something to improve this would be another sound effect if Belle gets hit compared to when she kills an enemy. Since, overall, the sound effects are excellent.

One of the final things I want to talk about is the pacing. In this game, you need to get three ingredients and something that really surprised me is that the second act is short. But this is an extremely minor complaint, a nitpick even. As big as a nitpick as the I find it a shame that some nice designs like statues go to waste since they are mostly in the dark. But, then again, it adds to the atmosphere and gives off a slightly creepy vibe.

Now, I think it’s high time for the conclusion, don’t you think? A summary of what I think in general about this game and trying to answer the questions I asked in the introduction of this article.

Let’s play or let’s play?

Is this game worth your time? Yes, yes it is! While the game has some annoying things like I talked about in the previous section, I really think that the positives highly outweigh the negatives for this game.

Now, if you would ask me… Which version should I play? Then, I have to answer the enchanted edition on Switch. It’s quite difficult to answer what’s new in this version since you don’t have an official change log but reading from the Twitter feeds of the developers it seems that it’s mostly a graphical upgrade and various tweaks to make the experience more enjoyable.

It also looks like this game is going to have a sequel or expansion from what I’m reading on the developers twitter feed.

I’m so glad that I gave this game a chance, since because of this game I discovered a very passionate developer that loves creating charming games like this one. I really enjoyed my time with this game, trying to figure out which item goes where. While it’s tempting to use a walkthrough, I highly advise that you don’t. There is barely any moon logic in this game, and it feels so much more rewarding to play it blind.

The charm of this game is just amazing. Mystik Belle is a hidden gem that more people should know of and play. This game has so much potential even while I haven’t finished the original, I’m already hyped for new content that’s upcoming.

And with that said, I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

First Impressions: Bloodstained – Ritual Of The Night (Switch) ~ Middle Ages Magic.

Official websiteNintendo Microsite

So, a new Metroidvania game has been released. The Metroidvania genre is one of my favorite style of games. When I heard that Koji Igarashi of Castlevania fame was the director of this game, I was beyond hyped. I even mentioned this game in my top 10 games I wanted to play in 2019. And, yes, the game was even twice on that sort of list. Anyways, this game was a Kickstarter game were major flops like Mighty Number 9 and major hits like A Hat In Time. Where does this game fall? On the major flops or on the amazing titles part of the spectrum? Let’s find out in this first impressions article. Also, feel free to give your opinion on the content of this article and/or the game in the comment section down below. A small editor note I have to make is that I have played this game before and after the visual improvement patches applied, and I will keep this in mind for this review.

Middle Ages Magic

During the Industrial Revolution, the Alchemy Guild got scared of losing their followers and patrons. So, they decided to create Shardbinders. These are humans who are forcibly fused with demonically charged crystals. Thanks to these crystals, the Shardbinders obtained magical powers. Everything was peaceful until the Fire Nation attacked, well sorta. Kinda. The Shardbinders were sacrificed and abused to summon demons from Hell (let’s be honest, this is a sort of Fire Nation. 😉 ). Now, this whole plan backfired and brought mass destruction over the whole of England. Thankfully, the Church was able to intervene and save some areas of destruction.

Two shardbinders survived the whole massacre, Gebel and Miriam. Ten years after the incidents, Miriam wakes up from her unnatural slumber and finds out that Gebel has summoned another demon to continue the revenge of the Shardbinders on what the alchemists did to him. Miriam starts her journey accompanied by Johannes, who is a former member of the Alchemy Guild. Miriam wants to stop Gebel before the whole world is destroyed.

The story itself is nothing that special. To be quite frank, the story didn’t really grab my attention. Now, I have reviewed two Castlevania games in the past: Castlevania – Portrait of Ruin and Castlevania – Lords Of Shadow – Mirror Of Shadow and of both these games, I don’t remember a lot about the story. It’s a shame since the story has quite a lot of potential to go quite in-depth and in different directions. The story takes a backseat in this game, to a point that sometimes the story is used as a sort of in-game guide. Like, when you have defeated a boss and you talk to one of the members of the Church, she straight up tells you (this isn’t an exact quote but it’s quite similar): “I have heard rumors that one of the high ranking officers can jump again in the air. (…) You need to look for a tower where…”

Now, the cast of the voice actors of this game is just mindblowing. Miriam is voiced by Erica Lindbeck who voiced Barbie herself in a few movies and also voiced one of the leading characters in Fire Emblem Echoes. Gebel is voiced by Ray Chase who’s a voice you can also hear in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as Roy and in Final Fantasy 15 as Noctis. Zangetsu is voiced by a voice acting legend by the name of David Hayter who is famous for his voice work on Solid Snake. You can dig deeper into the voice cast using this page from Behind the Voice Actors. With so much talent on board and pretty good direction, you can be sure that the dub of this game is pretty well done.

Now, what could have improved the story? Well, first of all, a bit more character development. Some characters are quite two dimensional. I barely notice any progress in these characters. Secondly, I feel that too many stereotypical characters were used. A more diverse cast of characters or characters that broke their stereotype would be a great twist in the story. And finally, be a bit less hand-holding. If you want to guide the players to a certain location to gain a new power-up, you can do that by other means. I loved the system the developers used in Monster Tale on the DS. In that game, you also have a guide to where you need to go, but it’s up to you to fight through the enemies and find your way there.

Metroidvania at its finest

In the previous section, I have already mentioned three games I have reviewed that were in the same style as this game. The two Castlevania games and Monster Tale.

If you have played games like Castlevania, Metroid, Monster Tale or Axiom Verge then you’ll know what to expect in this game. In this game, you explore a huge map, defeat different bosses, learn new techniques to make exploring easier and access unknown areas. Meanwhile, you have to fight through a lot of enemies and try to balance your items right in order for you to stay alive.

Most Metroidvania’s are anything but easy. This game is no exception. This game can be quite difficult. But, the difficulty is fun difficulty. Sometimes you aren’t strong enough or don’t have the right gear to survive the encounters. Now, some people would enjoy the challenge of this game and try to defeat this game with the weakest gear possible. Now, this means that this game has some minor forms of grinding to improve your stats and defeat some bosses easier.

Now, the map of this game is quite huge. Thankfully, there are several warp points that allow you to fast travel to other areas in the castle. These warp points are in special rooms marked in green on your map. A minor nitpick I have is that the warp point to the central base of the game is outside right after some enemy encounters. I think that it would be better inside so I can go with full health to the boss. Yeah, I’m that kind of a player. So, that’s why I mentioned it as a nitpick.

Anyways, the warp rooms aren’t the only special things on your journey. You also have to save rooms. This game doesn’t have an autosave feature, but you can save (and heal your HP/MP) at the various save rooms that are shattered around the castle.

I really love the freedom of exploration in this game. While the story is a minor disappointment to me, the gameplay more than makes up for it. Exploring the castle and the areas around it is a ton of fun. Trying out the different mechanics and abilities of Miriam is just a great experience to have.

Together with the decent controls, this game is a blast to play. Now, I have read in different reviews that the controls of this game have a bit of input lag or are a bit floaty. Thankfully, I find that they improved them a lot in the patches that the game received and I think that the future patches in November 2019 will improve the game even more.

Visually underpowered

Allow me to address the elephant in the room. Look, there it is. His name is Dumbo and he has a movie made about him. Now, let’s be a bit more serious. Visually, this game doesn’t look that great when you compare it to the other versions on PlayStation or PC. The publishers even posted a statement on the rather spotty technical performance. Now, I think that’s a great move to improve technical performance through patches. On the other hand, delaying the Switch port to work on the technical performance would have been an even better move in the first place.

While the Switch is quite powerful, compared to the other consoles on the market today… Well, it’s underpowered. So, I can understand that the Switch version has some fewer animations or visual effects. Something I think that I don’t understand is the inconsistent performance of the game and the input lag in certain areas. Now, these things will be addressed in the patched that is scheduled for November. This is a shame since this game would be an amazing title to play on Halloween night, but they will miss the mark on that completely.

With all that talk about the Switch version having a spotty performance, I do have to say… I don’t find it that bad. The issues are the worst when you play the game in undocked mode. When you play this game in docked mode, this game plays just … decent. In very rare spots, the game has a bit of frame or input lag but nothing game-breaking.

In its current state, the game still looks quite good. I think the visual presentation is great and the animations are quite good as well. Together with the amazing music and enjoyable sound effects, the audiovisual presentation still gets a pass from me. So, I’m a bit mixed on this whole thing.

The game is a blast to play and has some extremely helpful features like the ability to leave markers on your map so you can remind yourself to visit these areas later. The game even has a lot of depth with its own crafting system, various shops, various unlockable skills and builds you can make… Even when you change your outfit in the menu’s, Miriam wears the armor and outfits in the game, during gameplay, and during cutscenes.

But, the whole game is held back by the lack of polish that is now coming in the form of patches. It gives the game a wrong first impression to a lot of players. Not everybody knows that this game’s performance and visuals are going to improve. Also, I have stopped playing this game because I want to replay this game when all the patches have been released so I can experience this game in it’s the best form. And that’s what’s so disappointing to me. I’m already halfway the game and now I have to restart the whole game. Well, then again, it’s my own choice…

So yeah, this article is going to be continued. I think it would be a bit unfair to fully judge the game right now when I know that there are patches to improve the visuals, the controls and the gameplay in the near future. But, I still wanted to talk about this game so here we are. So, for a full review, you will have to come back a few weeks after the patches have been released. If I don’t forget, I’ll also link the updated article here: [TO BE ANNOUNCED.] And maybe I should go more in-depth about the gameplay in that updated article as well.

And that’s everything I currently wanted to say about this game. I want to thank you for reading this article and I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. I hope to be able to welcome you in another article but until then, have a great rest of your day and take care!

My top 25 DS games of all time. (Part 2/3)

25 – 20

Welcome to part 2!

#19: Might & Magic: Clash Of Heroes

MMClashOfHeroesBoxshot

Look! There is a dragon on the box-art. Best game ever made! 10/10. Next game.

My love for dragons has nothing to do with this game. It was only a lame joke to start my explanation for my pick for the 19th spot.

I do love playing puzzle games sometimes. But when there is a battle element involved, I enjoy it even more. It has also been released on Steam, so you can enjoy it on the PC as well.

I have to admit that I haven’t beaten the game. But I’m really trying to find time to play this game. Sadly enough, this is a game I can only play in short bursts. That’s mostly due to the nature of the gameplay. But I’m sure that some people might be able to keep playing this game for hours on end.

What I have seen from the game shows that this game is a very good game. Further proof is that on some lists of forgotten gems on the DS, this game appears. So, I don’t have to further proof myself… I think.

 #18: Orcs And Elves

Orcs_&_Elves_Cover

Sometimes, I love myself a good dungeon crawler and adventure game. This game nails most of the things I was looking for in these kinds of games. The game feels old, which made me love it even more. Yet, I was surprised how this game is a port of a mobile game. And this port is actually pretty well made. iDSoftware and EA worked on it after all. (And there aren’t any microtransactions from EA, thankfully.)

In this game, you play an elf that is fighting the orcs to stop corrupting the land. You fight through various dungeons and explore them. Best of all, it’s in 3D. So, that makes the atmosphere even better. What I love most of all, is that this game is turn based. If you make a move, your enemies make a move as well. This makes the game very tactical.

I haven’t beaten this game since the final boss is pretty brutal. At least, to me. Maybe, when I restart playing this game and thought out the evolution of my character a bit better, I might be able to defeat that boss. We shall see. And maybe then I’ll write a review about it! So yeah, we shall see.

#17: Ghost Trick

Ghost_Trick_EURecently, I have beaten a game called M.U.R.D.E.R.E.D. – Soul Suspect. My buddy, Seraph made a great video review for it. I highly recommend you guys watching it some time.

But this game is how it should have been. This visual novel and adventure game puts you in the role of a ghost. You have to avoid the death of a character by going a few minutes back in time. Then you have to poltergeist items to change the course of history.

The game became really memorable to me because one of the characters is a black cat, one that reminds me a lot of my own cat, Sparta. If only, my real life cat could talk to me.

When I started writing about this game, I actually wanted to replay this game. Since the memories are getting vague. Which is a good thing, because I remember enjoying this game a whole lot. Maybe, one day, I might write an article about it.

#16: Lego Indiana Jones: The Original Adventures

lego-indiana-jones-the-original-adventures-cover548534

It would be a shame if I hadn’t put an Indiana Jones game on this list, right? Well, here it is! Lego Indiana Jones. I know that there is a sequel and an other game of my favorite hero on the DS, but I don’t think they deserve a spot on this list (yet). Because, I haven’t played them enough.

This game is simply one of the best LEGO games I have ever played. In 2014, there is an overdose of LEGO games with all a similar formula.

This game is pretty fun to play. It follows the plot of the movies pretty close. It helps introducing the movies to a younger audience, since it doesn’t contain the graphical scenes which made the movies not meant for their eyes. The humor of this game makes it even better. I actually laughed with some jokes they made with the characters I love.

I hope that the sequel can bring me the same joy. I finally got myself a copy, so fingers crossed!

#15: Wario games (Best: Wario: Master Of Disguise)

Wario Master Of Disguise DS cover

I know what some readers are already thinking. Isn’t this cheating? Putting these games on spot 15, while I put all the Mario games on spot 23? No, it’s not cheating. The reason behind it, is that these games are pretty different from the Mario series in my opinion.

The honorable mention for this spot is WarioWare D.I.Y., which helped DS gamers to make their own mini-games. That was simply an amazing experience.

But if this spot has to go to one game, it has to be Wario: Master Of Disguise. Because I think that this game has a brilliant idea behind it.

You play in the role of Wario. He just stole a magic wand that gives him the ability to transform in different suits that give him special powers. Maybe, I should take a closer look in a review or something?

 #14: Super Scribblenauts

252px-Superscribblenautsboxsmall

In the past, the Scribblenauts series was criminally overlooked. Because the game was on the DS, it looked like a kids game. While in reality, it’s one of the best games to be creative in.

I could have put the original too in this spot, but there is a reason why I don’t. Super Scribblenauts is just a better game then it’s original. It surpasses the original by so much.

While the user interface isn’t the best I have seen on the system, it’s highly addictive to play. Oh, you might be wondering what this game is about? Let me tell you, it’s about writing things to helps people. The people in Maxwell’s (main character) area aren’t very smart. So, you have to write words on your magic notepad.

The words you write however, come to life. In this version they added adjectives! So you can write “big blue truck” and you will get just that. You can basically write anything, as long it’s PG-13 and it isn’t trademarked. The game is a lot of fun, and if you are interested, there are a few titles of this series on Steam. So you have no excuse to give this series a try!

#13: Club Clubhouse_Games_coverHouse Games / 42 Game Classics

This game blew me off my socks. I think that this is one of the best games in it’s genre. This is how you should make a game about card and board games. I barely have anything negative to say about it.

The multiplayer is quite fun and I mostly remember this game because I played it a lot with my sister while we were young. The hours we spend on this game secretly playing this game while we are supposed to sleep. I really enjoyed those times.

I recently got this game back, since I lost my first copy. And I play it from time to time. In the present, I play this game while I’m on the train towards work. But I’m afraid that I’ll miss my station one day because I’m too addicted to this game. So, fingers crossed that it never happens.

Actually, I should write a review or something about this game. Maybe next month, since in September I will write about games I wanted to write about for a long time.

#12: Another Code: Trace Memory 

Another_Code_Two_Memories_cover_artAlso known as “Trace Memory” in Europe, this visual novel game is quite an overlooked gem. The story of this game touches me on personal levels. There are some things that happen in the game that make it quite memorable to me. I won’t give the details about them, since they are personal.

A while ago, I actually took a look to the sequel of this game on the Nintendo Wii. If you are interested, you can follow this link to it: Another Code – R. In this game, Ashley is on a quest to look for her father. While she is on that quest, she will unravel a mystery about her dead mother. It’s a quite thrilling story, actually.

Ashley has a sort of PDA-ish device that looked like a DS. Her father developed it. It might be an easter egg or not, it’s quite an amusing touch.

Sadly enough, the developers of this game went bankrupt. Cing made also the smash hit named Hotel Dusk. Before you ask yourself which spot that it’s going to have on the list, let me save you this disappointment. I couldn’t really get into the art style.

#11: Time Hollow

Time_Hollow

I wrote a review on this game not too long ago! I praised it enough, so you guys might have seen this entry coming.

So, the reason why this is one of my favorite games, it’s simply because the story, theme song and gameplay kept my playing until the very end.

While the game’s length is criminally short, the actual content is highly enjoyable. The soundtrack is one of the ones I have heard in a visual novel game.

That themesong, that’s the most important factor in this game. The memories that are connected to it, that’s what I gave this game such a high spot on my list. Some memories about it might be personal, but they sometimes come all back when I listen to the song. At once.

I still remember playing this game, with my back to a radiator. It was quite cold. It was in the middle of the winter and it had snowed a whole bunch. A part of the wheels of my mothers car where even stuck in the snow. But I couldn’t be bothered, I was too drawn into this gem of a game.

#10: Retro Game Challenge

Retro_Game_Challenge_Coverart

xSeed, I’m sorry to hear that the sale of this game didn’t went all that good. For that reason, you couldn’t release the sequel in the west.

I urge everybody to start playing this game. If you love challenges and retro games, it’s right up your alley. If you liked games like NES Remix on Wii U, this game is something for you.

The humor, references and actually pretty accurate evolution of the video game industry… It makes for a gem of a game. I really wish it was more successful then this.

This game appears on various overlooked / underrated and top DS games, and it has every right to do so. This game has multiple games into one. And they aren’t simply mini-games, no! They are in itself full games.

They were even able to get a story into the game. Before, I sound like I’m trying to sell this game to you, I actually am. I’m not being payed by xSeed, but I think you should give them your money for this game! Or check it out at least!

End of part 2.

9 – 1