Bot Gaiden (PlayStation 5)

Metroidvania is something of a heaving mass of a subgenre these days, there always seems to be another game laying claim to those same inspirations every time you turn around. Bot Gaiden though does try some fresh ideas to go along with that and help it stand out from the crowd, does it succeed? Lets take a look.

You play as the Ninja robots Robyu and Bytron as they race to recover the power skulls that have been stolen by each of Giorqio’s 6 Hench-bots. Slicing everything in their path, they must reach their destination quickly as the Hench-bots grow stronger with time and exposure to the skulls.

The story is presented In a typically retro way as chunky sprites and spicy dialogue flashes across the screen as the BGM pumps away in the background. You’ll quickly notice there are actually 2 protagonists during story segments, and that’s because the game sports a well integrated local co-op mode. The game seems somewhat designed with co-op in mind as there’s more team focused abilities, like the botswat attack, as well as gear shares to keep your mind off competing, alongside additional features to ease 2 player action on a single screen. There’s only a handful of stages though, so re-playability is paramount and the game goes some way to aiding that with the gameplay setup.

The chunky sprites noted before make their way to gameplay too, as thick black lines and punchy colours give the game an expected retro look to go with the gameplay. You’ll find plenty of variety with the foes you fight and the stages you conquer, with the bosses themselves sometimes filling the screen.

One neat aspect of the visuals is that you can apply a filter to suit your taste. There’s one to smooth things over a little, but I went with the CRT filter instead. This looks surprisingly similar to an advanced one you’d find for emulators and looks much better than a simple scan line filter. Unfortunately the game doesn’t really make much use of the PS5 features like haptics etc outside of some speedy loading and butter smooth performance.

As a metroidvania styled game it will feel similar to something you may have played before, and that would be Mega Man more than any of the others in this case. This is mainly due to the high activity on each stage and almost constant projectile dodging that needs to also be taken into account. That doesn’t mean Bot Gaiden doesn’t forge its own path and it does so with some interesting ideas. The headline one would be the need for speed. You’ll need to be as fast as possible through the stage as your time taken has an effect on the boss at the end, take too long and they have more health etc which cane make for a slog if you sloth to the end.

You can be aided in that speed by upgrades collected during a stage, and these gears can add all manner of abilities too, with only a few needed to be collected before your momentum really starts to pick up. Taking damage will see you lose these when hit, depending on the difficulty, so keeping them and finishing up quickly is your priority. Finishing up quickly will also net you bonuses between stages you can use to add abilities that stay with you, a must as the difficulty ramps up. The game starts tough and doesn’t let up in that regard, it’ll make mincemeat of anyone that takes it lightly or is unprepared for the journey.

Bot Gaiden looks, sounds, and plays just like the games it looks to take inspiration from. Difficulty can be steep when starting out, as you would expect, and there’s only a handful of stages that requires re-playability to make the most of, so it mainly comes down to your retro leanings with this one. Metroidvania fans will certainly enjoy what’s on offer with speed being such a factor, everyone else may not enjoy the 90’s pummelling quite so much.

3

Summary

Looks good, plays tough. Has some fresh ideas which will help its stock rise the more in tune one is with the genre.

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Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.