I've seen Astalon: Tears Of The Earth (PS4) flutter by, but apart from looking like a run-of-the-mill 8-bit platformer, it didn't really caught my attention. Then someone else uttered the magic word 'metroidvania' in relation to this title and presto, I immediately installed it.
And oh boy, is it good. Underneath those sharp 8-bit contours lies indeed a metroidvania, or rather, a roguelite. You get three characters you can swap out at save points, each with their own abilities. This alone can lead to some puzzling in how to get one character obviously suited to tackle an obstacle, to said obstacle in the first place, which is clearly marked to be reached by another character.
On top of that, there are crystal orbs to be gathered and exchanged in-between death for ability and stat boosts via an eldritch god. Gosh, I really hope that's not facilitated through a Faustian bargain of any kind. So far so roguelite, but these mechanics are than layered on top of level design which bears an eerie kinship with La-Mulana and its ilk. Actually, there are many elements that take me back to that trap-infested hell-of-a-good-time.
The one thing it differes from in relation to La-Mulana, is that it is a tad easier. The challenges are better pitched for a larger audience and the bosses may seem difficult, but have nicely exploitable patterns to deal with. it's not git gud difficult, but it will keep you on your toes.
And that in short, is why this just clicks. It's pitch perfect. That said, the 8-bit graphics might work to its detriment, as not everyone will be charmed by them and personally the anime stylings of the main characters are a bit too much. Heartily recommended though!
Another classic-style-wrapped modern game I played is Vengeful Guardian: MoonriderM (PS5). This one looks like Hagane and the like and... pretty much plays like it as well.
Large sprites, small environments, slightly stocky animations, yet fluid controls. It embodies all the good and the bad from the 16-bit action game era. However, it does feel very old. Which is something that Cyber-Shadow managed to avoid. That game recreated the nostalgia for an older generation action game, and replaced its sensibilities with that of a modern generation.
So far, Moonrider seems mighty content on being just a 16-bit throwback. We'll see how it develops as I pour some more time in it.