Weekplay 202238

Sunsoft is back, baby!” The announcement trailer was rather enthusiastic, but to be honest, I am pretty giddy about it. Not only is the new Sunsoft bringing back Ufouria: The Saga/Hebereke - one of my favourite NES-era metroidvanias - they are also re-releasing the “one that got away”: Gimmick! Special Edition (PC) courtesy of Bitwave Games.

Previously this particular Sunsoft game for the NES was only released on Famicom in Japan and outside of it, exclusively in the Nordic countries for… reasons? Considering Sunsoft’s track record it is kind of strange only the North was able to play Gimmick! in Europe, but Ufouria already showed that limited releases weren't that strange a tactic for the company so here we are.

Being able to walk about the Tokyo Game Show, it would be rude not to give Gimmick! a try. And luckily playing the game is a joy. To start with, it’s a tricky NES platformer, but now includes rewind options to keep it accessible enough. In the game you play a green Kirby-esque character that can charge his attack to prepare a throw-able star. Release the button and you throw it as a projectile. Combine with some platforming challenges, and levels that lock you into a certain cycle until you find an exit-branch, and you’ve got a solid 90’s platformer.

It’s very simplistic but because of the tight platform physics the platform sequences are the actual star of the show. The rewind option is definitely a boon though. I kept getting trounced by the first boss and even finding the correct time to rewind back to proved to be a challenge!

All in all a very welcome re-release and definitely part of my wish-list together with Ufouria.

Another game that’s high on my wish-list is Animal Well (PC). Yes, it’s another metroidvania - sue me. This one is a bit more compartmentalized in that the various screens/areas all contain bespoke environmental puzzles you need to solve and pass, sometimes granting you access to a new skill that promptly becomes another part of the puzzling.

It looks gorgeous with a dark neon aesthetic and your own character being a bit of an adorable blob contrasted against ever more complex creatures.

Playing this at TGS gobbled up time like it was nothing and had I been there without any further commitments, I probably would have ran it through in its entirety.

Alas, those commitments pulled me away from the stand, but at least it cemented in my mind that I positively need this game on Steam Deck (or any other console for that matter).

Back home, some demos were dropped onto the PlayStation Store. Among them Valkyrie Elysium Demo Version (PS5). Right from the announcement some months ago, it was very clear this was going to drop turn-based RPG battles in favour of an action-RPG approach. My mind instantly saw this as Square Enix trying once more to pull “an Automata” on a dormant franchise.

After playing the demo, I can confirm this is exactly Valkyrie Elysium seems to be aiming for. It’s a bit more streamlined, but the way it managed to translate the Einherjar system into an action-RPG move set is pretty neat. It feels a bit like a summon system (from say, Final Fantasy) which allows you to fool around with elemental attacks. Of course, it’s a modern Square Enix title, so this also means elements and damage can be exploited to stagger (or in this case, breach) the hell out of enemies and bosses.

I’m still not completely convinced by Square Enix' reliance on the "Stagger Time Battle" system as they've added it to just about every one of their games, but at least it gets the job done. Having multiple Einherjar allows for some creative combining and there's far less of a focus (so far) on having to stagger an enemy through them; if you do so, it feels like a bonus rather than a requirement. Having the Einherjar also function as traversal skills is a bit less solid though, coming across in the demo as a forced idea rather than something native to the game’s flow. Maybe that’ll become better as the game opens up.

Still, it’s a positive for me and in that respect Square Enix did successfully pull “an Automata”. On the wishlist it goes.