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!