The Messenger - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

I am officially declaring this Metroidvania Month. As much as The Messenger is openly inspired by Tecmo’s merciless Ninja Gaiden games, a little ninja bird tells me that it, too, blossoms into a non-linear platform adventure, joining a long list of similar launches this August.

Out now, The Messenger is the debut game from new studio Sabotage. Players bounce and stab their way through a linear 8-bit world of demons and big boss monsters, eventually gaining the ability to travel into the 16-bit era and explore. Below, a trailer and a peek at some of Ninja Gaiden’s original developers giving it a try.

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The Messenger

I didn't realise, until I started playing The Messenger last week, that I had started to see this kind of game as a bit of a chore. The kind of game I'm talking about is the rigorously observed reconstruction of an 8-bit style of gaming, right down to the limited colours, three-slot save system and chugging, popping, tweeting sound effects. And I only realised I had started to see all this as a chore because I found I was surprised, an hour or so in, to be enjoying myself so much.

I am still a bit confused about it all, to be honest. I don't think it's the games I've played that have put me off. I loved Retro City Rampage, which managed to reimagine a modern open-world adventure for the era of the NES, and since then I have happy memories of a handful of similarly styled platformers and Castlevania knock-offs. They do start to blend a little, though, once they're left in the memory: I'm left with a generalised sense of artful glitches and anachronistic leetspeak.

And then, I guess, my own associations come in to muddle everything further. We're venerating these games rather than trying to do new things, we're making a brief period of gaming into a golden age at the expense of the present and, with that, focusing on a handful of attributes - difficulty, ninjas - and in some way limiting what games are.

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The Messenger - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

I’ve always been a sucker for a good ninja-themed game, and The Messenger captures that Ninja Gaiden/Shinobi vibe well. Sharp pixel art, catchy chiptunes and an interesting twist define this Devolver-published platformer. While The Messenger looks like a perfectly solid Shovel Knight-esque platformer on the surface, the release date trailer below shows how players will be hopping between 8 and 16-bit versions of the game, and doing some clever things with this power. There’s not long to wait, either. The game will be launching in just under two weeks, on August 30th.

(more…)

The Messenger - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

I’ve always been a sucker for a good ninja-themed game, and The Messenger captures that Ninja Gaiden/Shinobi vibe well. Sharp pixel art, catchy chiptunes and an interesting twist define this Devolver-published platformer. While The Messenger looks like a perfectly solid Shovel Knight-esque platformer on the surface, the release date trailer below shows how players will be hopping between 8 and 16-bit versions of the game, and doing some clever things with this power. There’s not long to wait, either. The game will be launching in just under two weeks, on August 30th.

(more…)

The Messenger - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Dominic Tarason)

The Messenger

So long as it moves and feels right and has an original idea or two of its own, I’ll always make time for an old-school platformer, especially one starring ninjas. What can I say? I grew up through the late 80s/early 90s.

The Messenger is the upcoming debut game from Sabotage Studio, and it looks, at least at first glance, more than a little like Ninja Gaiden. That alone is enough to catch my eye, but the addition of Metroid-like exploration elements built around hopping between 8 and 16-bit iterations of the game? Alright then, you’ve got my interest.

(more…)

The Messenger

The Messenger is a self-described love letter to 8-bit and 16-bit platformers and action games, and it just so happens to star a young ninja fighting to defend his clan from demons. 

As you may have guessed, The Messenger was heavily inspired by the old Ninja Gaiden games—so much so that, speaking with Polygon, lead designer Thierry Boulanger said much of his development history can be traced back to Ninja Gaiden 2 on the NES. 

Boulanger and developer Sabotage boast of "challenging gameplay and tight controls" on Steam, but The Messenger's most interesting tidbit is its generation-hopping aesthetic. When I said it's a love letter to both 8-bit and 16-bit games, I wasn't kidding: partway through, the whole game upgrades from an 8-bit action game to a 16-bit Metroidvania game with improved music and visuals. You can also swap between the two styles mid-level to solve puzzles. 

The Messenger was designed to be speedrun-friendly. Boulanger says there are multiple paths to each level: the normal, obvious path, and then paths with huge shortcuts hidden behind skill-based techniques like the "cloud-step," a situational double jump which can only be used when you hit something (like an enemy or an enemy projectile) mid-air but can also be chained infinitely. 

The Messenger looks like one to keep an eye on as it cloud-steps toward its 2018 release. 

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