Child of Light Part 1: The Story, The Gameplay, and the Girl Who’s No Princess

Well, it’s that time of the year when the candy is brought out from the depths of store stock and furries get to shine. October is a time for scary stories and leaves to cover your lawn, a time when feeling fear and anxiety is actually encouraged to have fun.

Now, I’ve never celebrated Halloween myself or enjoyed the build up to it, but I always love how mystical and gothic the month feels. It’s almost like this is the time when fantasy and gothic horror is accepted into our reality rather than pushed away. Who doesn’t love watching Jason cut up College kids or cowering under the covers in the midnight hour.

For a month about fantasy and darkness, I thought it’d be a great idea to talk about a light-hearted fairy tale game. Totally not because it’s a short but solid game and college is giving me a different reason to be scared.

Child of Light

“Sister, my red flowing hair physics is getting in the way. Where am I going again?”

Child of Light is a 2d JRPG released in 2014 by Ubisoft, known for Far Cry and having strange E3 moments, for the Xbox 360 and One, Playstation 3 and 4, and the totally remembered Wii U. An ultimate version was released on the Switch in 2018, which is the version I played for this review. Inspired by Earth-I mean Final Fantasy and Chrono Trigger, the game follows a young girl from Austria who arrived into the mysterious continent of Lemuria after passing away. With a sword in hand and a Calvery on your side, you traverse the strange land for a way back home and, per the rule of Fairy Tales, stop your bitchy step mom. Because what would a fairy tale be without some evil step mom hating their step-daughter for very specific but unclear reasons.

For context on my connection to this game since I’ve never mentioned this story before, but Kingdom Hearts was one of the first games I saw as a kid. I remember in my babysitter’s house watching her son playing it when I snuck into his room; I was a very resourceful 3 year old. Ever since then, that game has stuck with me forever and its mystery in my life has always made me want to experience it for the first time. The same thing happened with this game.

“I see Attack on Titan has taken a turn for the…better?”

Back in 2015, I remember my brother buying and playing the game on his Wii U. As a young brooding teen who didn’t understand the story since I watched his playthrough in parts, the images of a young girl flying in the sky and the soft piano playing in the background as he explored stuck with me for years. It felt magical. When I got my switch, this became an immediate buy and an immediate contender for one of my all time favorite games.

Child of Light came at a good time in my life when high fantasy games like Final Fantasy 9 became my trend. In years of darkness when reality started kicking me in the Igniculus’, playing through a fantasy game that wasn’t overly dark and moody took me back to a time when I used to watch Adventure Time every day. I love dark sh!t but I need a break from time to time, so exploring through magical lands and fighting dark creatures without the light tone going to far into the night felt like a breath air to me. It reaffirmed that not every great story has to contain blood, mental trauma, and overall downer concepts. Sometimes, a little light can go a long way.

For this review, I’ve decided to split it into two parts. The first will contain the important stuff such as gameplay elements and story while part 2 will cover the miscellaneous things that aren’t too important in the grand scheme of things but are interesting. I played through this game in a whole week on New Game + since it’s only about 13 hours, so I’m completely fresh on what I liked and disliked about the game. With all that set in stone, let’s die from poison and enter into the mysterious world of Lemuria.

Spoilers Ahead!

The Story: Getting Isekaied

“Well, at least I wasn’t hit by a truck…”

The story of Child of Light is very, very simple. It doesn’t try to be overly complex and it appears cliche when out of context. But deep within its straightforward narrative about light vs darkness is a tale of what it means to be royalty and what responsibilities lay within.

It all starts in 1800s Austria with Aurora, daughter of a Duke. Her mother passed away long ago, so it’s been mostly her and her father in the castle until he remarried. Then, by sheer coincidence, on Easter, Aurora fell ill and passed away in her sleep. The duke mourned the loss of her daughter and fell ill himself.

However, Aurora didn’t appear in heaven but instead in the land of Lemuria, based on a real supposed continent. Traveling through the woods, lost and scared, she soon meets a firefly named Igniculus who tells her to meet the “Lady in the Woods TM”. With a goal in mind, she pulls out a rad sword and fights her way to her destination.

“By the power of Graystone. I have the power!”

After defeating a boss and solving puzzles, Aurora meets the Lady of the Woods who gives the exposition. Lemuria has been taken over by the Queen of the Night Umbra, who’s dark creatures have infested the land with their…evilness. The bitch and her two serpents have also managed to steal the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars to bask the continent of light into an endless darkness. Aurora is tasked to find the 3 celestial bodies while also being told that the only way home is through a mirror within the stolen castle. Gifted wings, the girl journeys off with the hopes of a Calvary joining her side and a way to get back to her father.

The rest of the story, as a said, is very straightforward. You go to a different town/city/port and meet a different party member of the world’s races, from the bearded Capulli to the lizard-like Piscean, and help with their problems. You go to a temple and find the macguffin after a boss fight. The evil queen is actually your step-mother…and so on and so forth.

But what makes the story stand out is how it’s written and how it’s presented.

Characters and Themes:

Aurora and Being a Good Princess

“You’re either looking at the “faux” on her crown or….Don’t worry, I won’t pry into-I mean I won’t dig too-F@CK!”

Aurora, to me, is one of the best main playable character’s out there and one of the best female main protagonists. She’s strong enough to fight her own battles, compassionate enough to help people without pay, mindful enough to let people join her, brave enough to speak her mind, yet vulnerable enough due to the love of her father. I think she strikes a fine balance between breaking traditional feminine roles in stories while not be afraid to use those past tropes to give her the kind and loving personalities most female characters have.

Aurora’s most stand-out trait is her refusal to be called a princess, despite being the daughter of a duke and her literal appearance resembling traditional princesses. Like, no matter how kind she is, she will correct people on it. Her crown even has a faux carved in it (which is just adorably funny). This trait is connected to the central theme/conflict of the game, as Umbra and her daughters see themselves as the rightful rulers of Lemuria. They see themselves as better than everyone, and they criticize Aurora for dirtying her royal clothes in the presence of commoners.

“I’ll get to this later, but these two act as a foil to the conflict”

Aurora, because of her refusal to her royal bloodline, shows that she doesn’t believe herself to be better than the people who follow her. She is a part of them just as they are a part of her. This is brought up during the final battle when Aurora, even after finding out her mother, who is alive, was the Queen of Lemuria and that she is the rightful heir, states that the country should be owned by the people instead rather than some castle over looking them. This is supported by the basic plot structure, as every single member of the party is a part of one of the tribes of Lemuria. They didn’t join her because she’s “the chosen one” and that everything lies with her; they joined her after she helped them with their clan’s needs. Her selflessness and her compassion to those around her are the “light” of her character.

“Yes, she becomes suddenly older in the game. I’m not getting into the moral logistics of it.”

This brought her downfall at first when Norah, who turns out to be an evil step-sister because fairy tales, used that flaw to set a trap. Aurora falls into the hands of Umbra because she chose her father over Lemuria. This goes into a secondary theme which I’ll get to with the other characters, but Aurora, as crushing as it was, had to think about the people of Lemuria over her father…to which the latter was proud of in his final moments.

She isn’t with out her flaws. Though she is compassionate, her main goal throughout the first half was to get back home to her father since he was dying. It brought her despair to leave her peers behind, but, since she’s lived with the duke alone for years, she couldn’t bring herself to leave him as he’s dying and the kingdom is flooding.

Aurora’s story is about selflessness and doing the greater good, not for herself, but for the people around her. It’s reminiscent of Link from Majora’s Mask, who went from being the chosen one in Ocarina of Time to being a selfless nobody saving everyone in Termina from the moon and from their own problems even if they never remember him. To me, Aurora is a shining star in the “hero” protagonist trope and I’m glad that what seems like a dying art can still be as inspiring and well-written as those heroes of the past.

The Calvary: Your Part

The other characters in the story represent a lot of things for both the plot and to their own character arcs. Each of them support Aurora’s belief in the people rather than royal bloodline. Each of them were hurt by Umbra in some way yet still fight for Lemuria. Without them, Aurora, no matter how strong she is, would never have survived the journey. By the end, in a sort-of shoved in theme but kind of works, each of them abandon their personal vendetta against the dark queen in favor of doing it for their country and their people. The people saved Lemuria, not Aurora.

“So…we’re getting there how? Alright, who wants to test the height first?”

Admittedly, this game is very plot central on Aurora’s perspective. The major events don’t include personal moments between the party, just Aurora and her story. However, that doesn’t mean the game ignores their character either. Like many adventure games, their a colorful cast of characters with their own distinct personality from different backgrounds. What connects them together is their search of belonging, their identity; which, to me, is the game’s second most important theme.

Rubella: The Jester Who Can’t Rhyme

“Sure, the most strange thing you’ve seen…”

Rubella is the first party member to join Aurora and the primary healer of the group. She is a member of the Aerostati Clan who live amongst the clouds in air balloons. She joins Aurora on her journey to find her brother, Tristis, who has left to join the circus on his own even though the plan was for both of them to go. Once found by himself after being thrown out, she convinces him that they don’t need the circus to be a two-act performance, rather finding such place amongst the warriors fighting for Lemuria.

On that note…

Tristis: The Jester Who Can Rhyme…For The Price of Crippling Depression

“Awe, she’s so supportive…he’s still not funny though.”

Tristis is an optional party member later on in the first half of the story and is an exceptional stat buffer for the party. He is a poetic downer who was unfortunately kicked out of the circus for not being humorous enough. After joining the party, I feel like both of their character arcs are not as fleshed out as the others. I think Rubella has a trait of wanting to be a warrior, since she took pride in it in a conversation with Oengus and talks about fighting alongside her peers as much as how much she talks about the circus. Tristis is a depressed man trying to find a bit of happiness, which lasts so little the faintest sight of it made Aurora want to record it. It bounces off the jolly and cheerful dialogue of the other characters, and is ironically pretty funny. He has a very wise, poetic aura to him as if he’s experienced so much life that he can comment on the joys and sadness of it. I did find his character more interesting, but these two end up not getting a lot of development.

Finn: When That One Joke From Howl Becomes A Whole Character

“Now Finn, I’m gonna need you to deal with brother up in the north. Really sock him on his blue skin and tower over his penguins.”

Finn is a 15 year old Capulli who is the 3rd party member to join the Calvary. A cowardly magician who’s essentially the game’s Avatar, he joins Aurora when she decides to free the Capulli, turned into Cows, from Umbra’s spell. Afterwards, he joins her to face the darkness. Though he’s scared, he goes on this journey to be braver than he is and to prove to his grandpa that he can be a good spellcaster.

He’s one of my favorites in the game due to his unique appearance and his exceptional stats, possibly the hardest hitting character in the game. His crying and cowardly nature makes him more relatable rather than annoying since he’s a very useful member of the party. There’s also a adorable naivety to him since he’s so young, leading to some interesting but humorous moments with the other characters. By the end of the game, he gets acknowledgement and praise from his hard-hearted grandfather, showing how much he’s grown since his bitch’en at the start. Other than that, there isn’t a lot of interesting lore surrounding him and his conversations don’t lead to a lot of real character relationships. He’s a good’un, but that’s about as far is it goes.

Robert: When Mice Spread Capitalism Instead of Diseases

“Anyone watch that movie ‘Tales of Despereaux?’ Is it a good film? I’ve seen posters of it as a kid, which is why this rat makes me think of it.”

Robert is a Populli capitalist who joins Aurora as the 5th member, serving as the archer of the group. His introduction, unlike the others, is done with a twist. While you have to solve a problem with the clan and he joins you, Robert has clear alterior in the form of being with Margerrette and his traits of making as much money as possible in any way makes it seem he doesn’t care for Magnus, the giant who carries the city of the Poppuli. Even though he did help and later joins, his mind is still on profit and banging, making him an anti-hero of sorts. Yet his isn’t a jerk or someone who looks down on people. The opposite happens: he sees opportunity through them with glee and his curiosity for the others shows he cares enough. Plus, when it comes to his love for Margarette, he never thinks of dirty schemes to win her heart. He tries his hardest to be the best at capital and being a hero as possible to impress her.

I love Robert so much, even though I do find his play style a bit redundant and bland, because he’s such a capitalist with a heart and his personality stands out so well with the others. The best thing I learned is that he didn’t just marry Margarette, his son later stars in his own picture story based 2 years after the game titled, “Reginald the Great.” It may not be a sequel, but damn is that beautiful.

Oengus: Zuko if he wasn’t a villain and didn’t have a disgusting, pulsating scar on his face

“Don’t be sad, at least your face didn’t look like you rubbed onions on one side..”

Oengus is the Kategida outcast and the forced slave of Umbra who manages to save Aurora from her captivity and convince her to continue her quest. He serves as a physical powerhouse who takes hits like a champ. Oengus was there with his clan when Umbra and her two serpents attacked the kingdom. He turned himself into a servant of Umbra in order to save his clan, but this dishonorable act would later get him kicked out by his brother. Now, he helps Aurora to right his wrongs and stop Umbra’s reign of terror.

Oengus is my second favorite character in the game. Not just because of his insta-kill rate and attack power, but because of how much I care for the guy. He’s an honorable warrior who threw that away to save his kind, but was thrown out because of it. Despite his behemoth demeanor, he’s a knowledgeable and good-hearted warrior who’s not afraid to be vulnerable. When his brother welcomes him with open arms after helping the princess so many times, it feels rewarding. Thinking about it, the loner but honorable character trope is one of my favorite. From Amarant from FF9 to the masterclass himself Dinobot from Beast Wars, these characters stay with me because their flawed yet have a sense of honor that sometimes gets questioned. They have a redemption-arc aspect about them that feels real and engaging. I love these characters whenever they appear.

It could also be the fact that, under all that armor, is apparently a being smaller than a 13 year old.

Gen: Short-lived Yet Still Impactful…and that’s not a joke on her height

“An example of the Party menu…her angry face expresses my distaste for this Party menu

Genovefa, or Gen for short, is a Piscean girl who is the final party member to join the Calvary. A user of “speed magic,” which I’ll go more in depth later, she is found with her Grandfather in a small village along the Lemurian Sea. Her plight is that an ogre, who usually protects the caves where the submerged Temple of the Sun lies, has been kidnapping her people since the rise of Umbra. Like normal, you go to the thing and defeat the boss but, in a depressing turn, it’s revealed her parents were already eaten. Aurora is forced to tell Gen the truth, to which the depressed and enraged girl joins the Calvary to stop Umbra as revenege.

Truth be told, before my playthrough, I actually thought her parents survived and was the reason why she was a forgettable character. It didn’t help that I knew she came in so late into the game, right before the final temple and last boss. I do think this still ends up not allowing you to get used to her well enough, and part of me wishes the game extended so she could feel more at home like the rest of the party. But the revelation that, unlike everyone else, you were too late to help her and that there is no way to revive her parents made it work.

Gen is short lived yet her story is so profound you still end up caring and sympathizing with her, and the way Aurora uses her flute as a requiem rather than outright telling her is tragic. It’s hard being told your parent’s are dead; it’s heartbreaking seeing the confirmation of other’s sadness and putting two-and-two together. Considering that Aurora prioritized going to her father over her journey and the trap that occurred, it makes me wonder if Aurora could have saved Gen’s parents if she got the moon and the sun and never met Norah. Whether or not this is possible, it’s seriously impressive to me that they didn’t go the easy route. In a game with such heartwarming and wholesome moments, Gen’s story reminds us of the dire situation of Umbra’s rule and how she needs to be defeated. Gen’s short time may suck, but when she faces Umbra it’s cathartic. I just wish we got to know what happened to her.

Golem: The Defender of Lemuria, now a Castaway

“I see you’ve made a transaction for my services. I will happily comply.”

Golem is a man of rock who was a part of the Golem’s Plight DLC and is included on all Ultimate Versions of the game. A defensive unit with moves to slow enemies down, he can either be the second or last party member you get since he’s found in the prickly tree right next to the Alter. Once a guardian of the castle for 300 years, he was cast out and disassembled by Umbra. Once Aurora puts him back together, he joins the Calvary to defeat the evil queen and find his missing piece, which he doesn’t know where it is and makes him feel empty inside.

Golem ended up being my third favorite character due to his story arc of finding his missing rock piece, which is a metaphor finding purpose in your life in order to fill in the emptiness within us. A lot of the times he tells that he was made to be a guard, to which other characters whether or not that’s real freedom. One of my favorite interactions happens with Oengus. Both of them compliment each other, whoever Golem doesn’t feel comfortable being called solid since he sees himself hollow without his missing piece. Oengus tells them that’s nature to feel incomplete, and that our journey’s to are always continuous and interconnected. He tells Golem to not feel sad since he’s still coming together. Like the Kategida member, Golem is old and wise yet feels no purpose. Their interaction together is very philosophical yet helps develop Golem, which is later shown through his interaction with Gen. When Gen is grieving and feels that she lost a part of her when her parents died, Golem is there to tell her that no one is perfect and that they are always going to find their missing piece with people a long the way.

In short, while the cutscenes for these characters are short and not integral to the plot, their interactions and banter help show that they are a party of people who trust, care about, and mess with each other. It shows great chemistry between them, from small humorous scenes like when they can’t believe Oengus is actually a tiny man to meaningful connections like Golem and Gen’s interaction, and proves that they were the best thing for Lemuria. Child of Light may be a plot-based story, but it’s dedication to it’s main party is beautiful.

Now for the elephant in the room…

Norah: The Villain You Feel No Sympathy For

“So, I looked up white poop to see if it was a real thing for a joke. Not only is white sh!t a real thing, but for some reason bing images pulls up generic pictures of white people instead.”

Now, Norah is a party member. She joins right after Finn and introduces herself as Aurora’s older sister, entering Lemuria through a mirror at the top of the castle. She eagerly joins her little sister on her quest back home, become the party’s main buffer and debuffer. However, while Robert was an interesting anti-hero who still manages to be nice, notable character interactions show Norah as passively aggressive and elitist. She says with the same happy smile, yet you can tell she doesn’t respect Finn or Rubella as peers, talking down to them in her cheerful demeanor. This contrasts Aurora since she talks to them like normal people. It easily establishes her as a character who needs development, and since she’s royalty you can put two-and-two together that it’ll be about treating peasants as people.

This trait explodes with Robert and the Populli. Despite the people’s capitalist behavior, she just outright calls them vermin like she has a Dinobot pass. She’s the only one to catch Robert’s alterior motive and questions why he’s helping them, but it’s filled with so much malice that it leans more towards hatred than actually catching a potential betrayal. Norah even tries to lure Aurora away several times from the rat. However, by this point, Norah’s character still comes off as just royal elitism rather than a future villain. But, surprise surprise, it turns out that Norah is actually Nox and was luring Aurora to a trap. She’s kind of like the Aeris of the game except, instead of dying, she permanently joins the villains or was a part of them from the beginning.

Norah is the most interesting antagonist to me because, while retaining the same traits as Umbra, she was a part of your team for a while. Many of her interactions foreshadow her betrayal but also reveals a lot of her character, making the twist believable and giving depths to what could have been an okay villain. While Umbra’s boss fight is satisfying because it concludes the story, Nox’s boss fight feels a lot more meaningful since both has you fighting a party member who betrayed you but also feels like a conflict between the two sister’s ideals when it comes to commoners. Nox’s execution as a character is effective because she was a party member, and kicking her ass after her snippy attitude and heel-turn made for a refreshing experience.

It could also be that I thought that, when she left, she took the Oculi from my bag. I don’t have any evidence for that being a mechanic, but it sure as hell fueled me to beat her serpent form.

Gameplay: Complex for 13 hours

Overworld:

The game takes place in a 2d plane as you explore the forests and skies of Lemuria. You start out running to your destinations, making your way through block puzzles and lighting the way with Igniculus. The firefly can be controlled by the 2nd stick and can do a number of things. Dark areas are lit by his light to see better.

“This scene was one of the one’s that burned into my brain for years. It’s what drove me to play this game.”

Enemies, very much like Earthbound and Chrono Trigger (where this idea really comes from), roam around waiting to attack. The way they fly or walk around actually adds to the worldbuilding since most of them are animals or animal like, feeling like their really part of the environment. With Igniculus’s light using the the R button, you can blind them to avoid fights or initiate fights from the back to do a surprise attack.

Around Lemuria are these glowing flowers. Touching them with Aurora or Igniculus releases the spores in a row. If you get them in the right order, the spores become health and MP for the party. Two blue orbs hang around the world and dungeons, one being treasure chests for Igniculus to charge with light to open or buttons that must be charged to open doors or turn off traps for a time. Finally, lighting Igniculus near Aurora recovers her health. The little firefly is an integral part of the game that doesn’t feel too overpowered, due to a meter, but never too useless.

“With my chicken wings, I shall insert my dominance onto Lemuria!”

The beginning never feels out of place or unnecessary because all the puzzles were teaching you how to do it for when they become adjusted for your flying. Unlike a Metroid game or Mario game, where flying would make things a hell of a lot easier, the game structure around it still gives it challenge and rewards players to do things that most RPGS wouldn’t allow you to.

After the first boss, Aurora is gifted the greatest thing a little girl can have…Barbies-I mean Wings! Like Tinker Bell, Aurora can fly through the sky to reach otherwise unobtainable treasure chests and secrets. The game’s layout really flows around flight rather than walking around, which makes for a unique 2d experience.

The Oculi System

The Oculi System is the equipment and crafting system of the game. Oculi are gems of varying colors found from chests, by enemies, and as rewards. The first, primary oculi colors are Ruby red, Sapphire blue, and…Emerald green? I guess that they wanted lightning to not be represented by yellow. This is the bases of the system: color and grade.

“God forbid Thanos from discovering this system.”

Crafting involves combining colors together based on the grade of the Oculi. There’s rough, tumbled, faceted, and brilliant (which is just a Diamond). You can only combine Oculi of the same grade. With colors, this is more diverse. You can do all 3 of a red rough to get one red tumbled, or you can combine a red and blue rough to create a purple rough, or you can combine all 3 of the primary or combined oculi to create either black or white. You can then combine the two to get Spinel, which I can only describe as hamburger puke. Finally, when you have a diamond of black, white, and hamburger puke…I’ll let you find out.

It’s a solid crafting system for a short game, having just enough to the point where it isn’t too complicated. However, the options become so little that the charm dies by the end. At the start, you’re building up your bling but, once you know it, it devolves into just getting diamonds. Repeat playthroughs don’t add to crafting since will just be getting 10 usable equipment. The feeling of experimentation is short lived. But, the game makes up for it with how you equip your gems.

“I like to imagine their just wielding the bling like knives and gluing them to their chests.”

I wish more games did this because it turns a limited pool of items into something unique and interesting. It asks the question: how do you want to equip this item? Do you want to give your characters resistance to an element in this location, like lightning, with an Emerald, or give the character more MP for spells. It’s fun mixing and matching slots to see which ability is the most effective for the character or situation. I honestly haven’t had this much fun with equipment since the esper system from Final Fantasy 6. Where the crafting of oculi gets dull, it’s how you use them that gives the Oculi System life.

Every character has 3 equippable slots: attack, defense, and miscellaneous. Let’s say you have a red occuli be equipped on a character’s attack slot. They would have fire imbued into their physical attacks. Seems normal, but this isn’t the end of it. Equipping it to the miscellaneous slot gives the character a passive ability to which it raises evasion when casting spells. This is the fun of the system because one oculi has 3 differing abilities that you can choose to use.

The Skills System

Leveling up in Child of Light gives the usual stat boosts but also skill points. The skill tree gives you the freedom to choose what further stat boosts and skills your characters want. Every character gets around 7-8 skills spread in different looking branches, all ranked form 1 star to 3 stars. As you progress, some branches have a passive skill along with them.

I’m not very knowledgeable when it comes to skill tree systems as this was my first game really experiencing it…unless I have before and I’m just not remembering. I have to say, it’s pretty fun. Choosing when you want something or investing your points into a skill down the road adds a lot of customization and planning to an RPG, which is what I love about the genre.

“Every Child of Light is personalized.”

Unfortunately, since I did New Game Plus, I kept all of my choices so I ended up not enjoying it as much since I had the ability to complete all trees by the end. Though a noob to the skill tree, I think Child of Light’s ends up inconsequential. From what I’ve seen of others, it’s about building your character the way you want them.

This doesn’t work for Child of Light since, as someone who unlocked all the skills, it’s not a good idea to have only one branch. Doing so would do things like only giving Finn Fire and Water or only giving Oengus upgrades to his slash while missing out on his boosts. Every character has their selective roles in the party, meaning that branches don’t lead to different jobs. It’s more like spreading their preexisting job around and you get to choose what to invest first. I can see the argument from players more sued to this system that they should have just done a linear skill system instead. It has its own merits, but the end result begs the question of “what’s the point.”

Combat: 2 against 3, I like these odds

Once initiating a fight, you’re greeted by Child of Light’s spin of turn based combat: a relay race. Each character starts at the back and, depending on their speed, move from the grey-blue wait section to the red casting section. When one of your characters make it, you can give them and only them actions to do. Once selected, they still continue to move to the end so they can cast their attacks. Enemies follow the same route. You have two party members fighting while the enemies can go up to 3.

While games like Final Fantasy have slow moving bars to create a slow approach to thinking during combat, Child of Light is fun because you have to think on the spot and control the environment. I’ll explain it as best as possible. One of Igniculus’ most useful abilities is the ability to slow enemies during combat. This is great because it allows you give your characters the edge and move faster while your enemy has to move as slow as a slug. Of course, use this sparingly.

All spell casts go from fast to slow, determining how long you stay in the cast zone. this is important to know because if an enemy hits a party member during this time it interrupts them and sends them back to wait. This is applies to enemies as well. Combat becomes a game of casting first and halting enemies before they can do the same to you. If your in control and slow down enemies at the right time, especially when their casting, you can cause a chain effect where you’re constantly going and their constantly getting interrupted. But the same can happen to you.

Most attacks are standard in any RPG, but buffs and debuffs work around the relay-combat. For instance, buffs like Unstoppable prevent you from being interrupted while haste makes it so you go faster than enemies. Debuffs halt your progress, like slow making enemies slow and paralysis stopping them completely for a few seconds. This is what I like to call “speed magic,” and it’s what makes Gen and Tristis such a special character because there entire playstyle is based around this combat. These kinds of buffs and debuffs can be used by enemies, mostly in the form of their counters. Counters happen as a negative to disrupting their casts, making many boss fights tricky since it forces you to let them go when the going gets tough. Some will put up shields, others will put slow on the party, and some can even put Unstoppable on themselves. Nox can do this in her boss fight, and I like to imagine everything she does is my fault.

The best thing about this system is how focused you have to be during fights. None of that mash A while you text your Onlyfans crush, eat a hotpocket, and watch Gundam Unicorn at the same time. While some fights are easy enough to possibly do this, many are challenging that you need to pay attention. It holds your brain and makes you think, constantly casting spells and hoping your little firefly slowing them down is enough to stop them. This kind of combat is what many RPGs strive for.

“I see someone was influenced by a little doom…”
“I honestly tried doing Expert New Game +, but I got stuck on this boss a lot. For the sake of getting this review out, I had to do Casual. I want to do New Game + Expert when I have more time on my hands.”

I found fights gained arbitrary difficulty because of this, forcing fights to be more about defending and healing instead of going on the offensive when 3 enemies overwhelm them. The fun slowly dies because it removes the control players have become so used to. I’m all for difficulty in fights, but I lose interest when I feel the unfair advantage comes from the game forcing it. Constantly switching party members and using potions doesn’t feel like the skills I built up with my characters.

Unfortunately, it suffers in areas. For one, you have two party members fight during combat. All I ask is…why? Two is fine but I never understood why I was stuck with only two and the enemies got 3. As a storyteller, it does show the enemies to be more a threat but, gameplay wise, I never understood the reasoning. This becomes worse when, as you learn, having both party members fall gets an instant game over. I guess the others were too scared to come in.

Finally, the biggest drawback to combat actually comes before the fight begins. In Child of Light, you can’t switch party members in the main menu. You can only do it during combat. I’m sorry, that’s really stupid. For as much preparation as you can get from skills to equipment, not being able to craft your two-party set-up before fights takes away a feeling of control and prep that many RPGS have. Granted, there’s no cost if you switch during battle. However, I don’t see an argument as to why you can’t just do it before, plus having to change up to the members you want can eat up time in the fight. These are small problems, but once they come up they are jarring to the fun and engaging experience Child of Light has to offer.

Next Time:

“I can’t believe you were the one who made the N64 Expansion 50 bucks. Umbra, you done f@cked up now!”

Since I don’t want to make one post too long, I’ll be saving my thoughts on the music, the graphics, the sidequests, and the secrets (like lore) for the next post. I wanted to focus on the core aspects of Child of Light and save the rest for a part 2. I’m sorry this took too long, meaning the Saber review will likely be delayed since I’ll have to rewatch the hell that was Saber.

For now, before the real overview, I will say that Child of Light’s core elements are well-done. Aurora and the conflict mix so well to create tension and theming, while the characters still have enough depth in their short amount of screen time to make you love them. The Oculi System is experimental in a good way, though crafting leaves a lot to desire. The combat is solid and engaging, with a setback that can ruin the fun. I think this alone sells the game, especially for how short it is. I finished this in a week and, yes, I am failing college because of that. Anyway, I hope to see you soon for my next post. And remember…never expect every Blog or Video ending to have some corny tie-in last line the topic.

-Samuel Argueta

Gundam Unicorn: The Beast of Possibility and Posebility

I am a fairly new Gundam fan, watching 00 as a kid and watching bits of Char’s Counterattack. Even though I lack the context of the previous shows in the Universal Century, Gundam Unicorn is still an incredible experience to be hold and has become one of my favorite animes of all time

Set in the Universal Century, in the year UC 0096 3 years after the events of Char’s Counterattack, the conflict between the Earth Federation and Neo Zeon, known as the Sleeves, is still underway due to an item known as Laplace’s box, the secret of the century itself. The Vist Foundation, who has kept the secret of the box for decades, now wants to give the Sleeves the box through the use of its key, an experimental Mobile Suit resembling a unicorn.

Banagher Links, an engineer student on Space Colony 7, has a chance encounter with Mineva Zabi, calling herself Audrey, who wants to stop a war between the two factions. During the scheduled meeting, the Earth Federation caught wind of the deal and causes a battle within the colony. As Banagher tries to find Audrey during the chaos, he stumbles upon the unicorn and Cardeas Vist. Entrusted with the suit as the finder of Laplace’s Box, the boy sets out to find Audrey and stop the Sleeves. In the midst of the battle, all bear witness as the white mobile transforms into the white devil itself: a Gundam.

While many of the major characters lack depth and development, Gundam Unicorn is a beautiful representation of giant robots in real military situations…in space. The show’s philosophy of Human potential and what war can do, it’s worldbuilding between both factions built up from past entries, to the fight scenes with incredible animation and sound design makes for one of most theatrical, grounded, and stellar experiences I’ve ever had.

Squid Game: Doesn’t Contain Squids

Admittedly, I only watched a couple of episodes till ep 5. However, the experience was just as thrilling and horrifying. It may not be the most original idea, but it’s a mainstream show that is incredible with its execution.

In this Korean survival horror, several hundred players, all in crippling debt as societies outcasts, are chosen by the Front Men to play a series of children’s games for the chance of millions of won(Korea’s currency). However, the catch is that those fail at the games, try to escape, or refuse to play under contract are killed. With each protagonist at the edge of their struggle, they now have nothing to lose but everything to gain as each death racks up in more cash. At the same time, a detective looking for his brother infiltrates the sadistic cooperation running the game to find out what their hiding and the purpose to this massacre.

Like I said, it’s not the most original in concept, but it’s so good in executing its ideas that it might as well have created them from scratch. The characters are relatable, unless your a nobody, and the tension with every game is so horrifying that deaths stick. However, unlike others that I’ve seen from this kind of story, nothing feels forced. The games are made to be fair, and a collective vote even allows players to leave. Everything feels like natural, allowing for the story to talk about its themes without it coming out of nowhere. Plus, it still has a few surprises. I haven’t finished it yet, but it’s worth you time.

Kamen Rider Revice: One Man, His Stand, And Two Riders

Oh my god, a good Kamen Rider series! I’ll admit it, from Zi-O to Saber, the Kamen Rider series has been growing stale from choppy writing to failed concepts. Also the toys have been getting out-of-hand, which sucks since previous series have managed to handle them in unique and believable ways. But Revice has been a treat to watch and has become a way better anniversary series than Zi-O.

Set in a world where Kamen Riders are common knowledge, a mysterious stamp artifact was discovered in South America 50 years in the past. In the present, the organization Fenix is dealing with demon worshippers known as the Deadmen who summon Deadmans from the inner demons of people using Vistamps. Their only hope is through the use of a Driver and a warrior known as Revice, who will fight alongside his inner demon.

At the same time, Ikki Igarashi is the son of a spa running family who’s recently been dealing with a demon only he can see. He is a man who gave up his dream in order to help with the family business while his brother, Daiji, rises up the ranks as a Fenix member. He is also the man chosen to be Revice. When the Deadmen attack Daiji’s ceremony and he fears becoming the Rider, Ikki makes a deal with the invisible devil and puts on the belt. The two of them become the warrior based on the T-Rex Revice, split as Kamen Rider Revi and Kamen Rider Vice. Together, they help Fenix and Japan during these dark times as people lose themselves to the desires of their inner evil.

What I find endearing about Revice is how over-the-top yet simple the show is. Compared to Saber’s Wonder World and Zero-One’s Humagear world, Revice feels like the real world with a Kamen Rider (this could be due to less Co-vid restrictions). Background characters may not be important but have enough relevance to make me believe that they matter. The show has a Double and OOO’s feel to it, and the simplicity allows for less worldbuilding errors that plagued the two Reiwa series before. I also love how the writing focuses on character rather than plot, something that Saber failed at both ends, making twists surprising due to being based around the characters. It’s only 7 episodes in but Revice’s grounded but supernatural tone, combined with its Kuuga like approach to people, wacky humor, and good writing, easily makes it the better of the 3 Reiwa shows already. I pray to the Tokusatsu that nothing goes wrong. I can’t take another disappointment.

Image from Kamen Rider Fandom

Earthbound Beginnings: The Giygas Menace

Introduction:

“Either my great-grandad let the smoke machine on for too long or Yellowstone just found some competition.” Image from Wikibound

The year is 1988 as a dark storm looms over America…and it wasn’t the new Coca-Cola taste. The adults of a town are taken away until only children are left. Living cars, strange monsters, and animals not in their right mind roam the country. Pissing on said cars and giving people hernias. A young queen in a distant wherever the hell Magicant is loses her memory and a special song. All these strange phenomena occur as the clouds of evil nest above Mt. Itoi, and an extraterrestrial being plots their evil scheme.

The young Philips CDI awakens from his…nap on his singular chair? Either way, as he leaves to get some juice, an attack from a poltergeist interrupts his day. A lamp with a smile, the first of many victims, strikes at the boy with his tangling thing that turns him on (I didn’t mean to word it that way), but Ninten (his actually name) smashes the ceramic lamp of $12. He bursts into his sister’s rooms and savagely beats on another lamp and doll. The day is saved, but not until the inside of the doll sings the first part of a secret melody. Going downstairs to resume his day, Ninten’s father 7 years late gives him a call about his great grandfather, revealed to be George, the kidnapped man in the beginning, and of PSI. He tells Ninten to go to the basement, go on an adventure, ignore the trap door, and learn of his powers that he totally had the entire time. Armed with his abuelo’s diary, a map, and a loaf of stale bread with a bit of fermentation, our young hero sets out to Podunk These Nuts to investigate the strange occurrences of the land and learn of his family’s history. Along with him on the ride is a catholic, a boy from within a trash can, and the guy from one of the Romantic’s album covers.

Earthbound Beginnings/ Mother 1: The Classic Lost In Magicant

“Podunk, where the kids where blue and the adults have blue hair. Guess this is L.A then.”

Itoi’s vision brought to life when he, besides being a famed copywriter and celebrity, wanted to make a video game after playing the NES for a while. Though he thought his proposal didn’t convince Miyamoto during a trip to Nintendo, which was originally for a different business purpose, due to the previous flop of another celebrity tie-in-game named Takeshi’s Challenge, he was given the go. He started Ape Inc and developed Mother for release on July 27, 1989.

Inspired by Dragon Quest and named after the John Lennon song, the game is a simple RPG with towns to traverse through and enemy jack@sses to randomly meet. At the time, it was a unique distinction from other RPGs due to taking place in a modern setting, America (the most modern place ofcourse), unlike the medieval themed locals of Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest. So, no black mages and roaming dragons; you’re a Giants fans fighting cars and eating burgers like a MERICAN! Instead of temples or ruins, you explore Abandoned Zoos and caves…and some ruins. While an Urban Fantasy isn’t unique these days anymore, it was an innovative move for RPGs back in the late 80s.

Though a bit rushed, shown in Mt. Itoi, the game was released on the NES and was a huge hit in Japan. Unfortunately, possibly due to the release of the Super NES over in the states, the game’s finished localized version was never released here. So, the game in America never came to America. 80s kids wouldn’t get their kicks of psychic kids and stinky humor until the release of Earthbound. While not official, fans did get a hold of the localized cartridge back in the day and put the ROM online, translating it as Earthbound Zero. However, in 2015, Nintendo did the unthinkable and released the original english translation onto the Wii U due to fan dedication. 27 years…and for the low price of $6.99. No one, ever, can tell me the Wii U was a bad console. Not great but, hey, at least this game and Metroid gave it recognition.

I played the game a while back, and went back for the sake of this review, after playing Earthbound and learning the prequel was on the Wii U. I didn’t have one at the time, so I ended up borrowing my brother’s. While I did enjoyed it myself, it’s a very flawed game besides, of course, the fact that it’s old as balls. Some aspects aren’t bad while others can totally influence whether or a not a person would want to buy it. Keep in mind, though, that it’s not a newer title and I won’t compare it much to our current era.

With that in mind, I’ll get into the review.

Gameplay:

If you’re familiar with Earthbound, the regular gameplay elements of Beginnings are not different at all. The menus are layered the same, the bag is limited (yet somehow worse), the walking animations are the same, the battles are fought mostly the same, and PP is still filled in the tank (better go to the bathroom for that).

Talking to people and checking random garbage still requires going up to them and using the corresponding option on the menu, just like real life! Hotels, hospitals, and stores function the same. You get money from enemies and access it through an ATM, and you save by calling your dad (or save states on the Wii U). Goods and equipment are stored in the bag, though their is no equipment menu. All and all, this sets up the basics that the rest of the series will follow, and isn’t too different at first that it will require someone to struggle getting adjusted. Even if you didn’t play the original, it’s not too hard to get used to.

There are still major and minor differences, both good and bad, to go through.

Overworld: Where the h3ll am I?

The overworld of Beginnings is detailed similar to how Earthbound would be designed, though the NES makes these towns and locations very basic. I’ll get back to this later.

One of the things that did get annoying in Earthbound is the slow overworld movement. After a while of playing, the slog of walking did make going through areas boring. In a weird switcharoo, this game decided to feature a run button!

“Accurate representation of me with the B button: sh!tty look and all.” Image by Kwentan

Well, not exactly a run button. Just like how emulators have a speed up command, the English translators made the B button a speed up button to move around areas fasters. So, it’s less like running and more like breaking the fabric of time to get to places faster. This is a great feature in the English version as a run button helps explore the world better.

From Podunk to Ellay, originally named after holidays similar to the number theme in Earthbound, America is a large world that can be explored at any time. This is because, unlike the linear story of Earthbound, Beginnings has a non-linear campaign where a lot can be seen in any order and not everything is required. For instance, Ana, Paula if she experiences frostbite every 2 seconds, is not a required party member to beat the game. So, you do the entire journey without her, though not getting her is a pretty bad idea.

“That first road…so many 60s freaks. So many Beatles fans!” Image from Wikibound

Admittedly, I never took advantage of this aspect of the game. I would have loved a non-linearness experience if the game wasn’t confusing as hell. Now, you get a map of where you generally are, which is great, but it is really not specific. The graphics has its ups and downs, and those downs include all the forest and plain paths looking very similar together. It can become disorienting and you can get turned around a lot trying to do everything if you don’t pay attention.

The dialogue, unless I’m dumb as bricks, was so vague on where exactly stuff was located that I had to use a guide for the whole game. I don’t complain much about a game requiring an outside source much since it’s not actually a part of the game, and I think that a game that doesn’t handhold too much is good. But this game lands on the spectrum where the lack of direction makes for a more frustrating playthrough where a guide is required for the whole thing. For us, in the age of Twitter mobs and moms living near our area, guides are readily available for use. But for the kids back in the day, how the hell did you beat this game?

Okay, maybe I’m being too harsh; it was a different time. Maybe it isn’t that bad…until you get to the major difference compared to its successor. One of my favorite features in Earthbound is the enemies being in the overworld. It allows for strategy on how you can approach them-would you want to wait for an opportunity to get the back or just avoid them all together-and adds a level of engagement that I wish more JRPGs had. Of course, Beginnings couldn’t do that. Random battles are initiated whenever exploring outside a city. The problem isn’t that there are random battles, because how can I be mad at a game that didn’t do the thing its successor did, but rather its damn encounter rate. Step out of the city and you’re gonna fight something. Idk who’s gonna appear after the black screen but you’re gonna fight something.

“Don’t go into the long grass! Not into the long grass!”

Exploring wouldn’t be so bad if every single step didn’t have the high chance of a fight. The encounter rate is so high that just one step after the other could be another. On the one hand, it adds a level of difficulty where you have to be cautious at every turn. On the other hand, it’s arbitrary and makes exploring more of a chore. It drags the pacing of an already slow plot. The battles themselves aren’t too bad but after a while I just want to get to the objective done with. Exploring the world was one thing, but the high encounter rate makes the guide even more necessary to finish it without pulling out so many hairs. (To really get the gist, watch Alphs video on Earthbound Beginnings. His joke on the random battles sums it up).

On a last note, the reason I didn’t talk to a lot of the people in town and found their vague dialogue an annoyance is because I find the actual civilized areas of the game to be really boring and unremarkable. Some places do stick out like Magicant, Spookane, and Youngtown, but everywhere else barely stood out from one another. The only thing separating the same skyscraper and house design is the layout of the town. Don’t get me wrong, this game does have a lot of strange and wonderful moments. But when it comes to the normal npcs, they aren’t as quirky, dark, or interesting. Unless it was in a story-related area of the place, I basically ignored most people. It’s really Earthbound that refined this and made a lot of regular NPCs quirky. NES argument aside, it’s really lackluster. Hopefully with a new reimagining coming out soon, the team can give each town a distinct look and vibe.

Battles: All Quest, One Dragon.

“I like to imagine that you’re fighting the whole d@mn background and not just a pair of eyes.”

The battle system here is more in-line with Dragon Quest 2, from what I’ve seen of footage due to not having a Projared level collection of games, but does have many generic JRPG conventions. The battle starts, you input commands, and you wait to see what happens. No rolling HP system to save a party member before death, none of the characters have a special trait that can be used in battle, and none of that psychedelic background that burns the retinas. Only 3 party members can be used as opposed to the 4 in Earthbound. A black background, a few enemies, basic controls, and that’s it. It’s old but simple, though my favorite aspect about the aesthetics of these battle screens is the way enemy sprites manifest. In Earthbound and Mother 3, they are just there the moment it starts. I like that, in this game, it’s like the enemies are appearing from the black drapes like a play ready to stand still and do weird things.

On the battle menu, you have the normal attack, the PSI, the Goods, Run, and Check; the basis for what Earthbound’s would become. The latter is unique to this game, essentially a universal Spy for everyone to check the enemies’ stats and weaknesses. There isn’t much to write or go in depth on; you pick the action, wait your turn, and be done with battles. Because of the encounter rate, the simplicity can become a double-edged sword and cause some disinterest. I found myself spamming the A button during some sessions; a bane for all JRPGs. I only became disinterested after a while, but whenever I refresh myself these basic battles were engaging enough to keep me going.

With the battles out of the way, I’ll go into the main characters and then into the story and my thoughts on it.

Character:

Ninten: Doing what Sega can’t

“So, when do I come into Smash? When do I get a mailing list? What do you think I am, the postal service?” Image from Wikibound

The young main protagonist thrusted to investigate the strange cases in America and learn how his family is connected to everything. Like Ness and Lucas, Ninten is a strictly supportive PSI user. The only attack he has is the physical ones, which he uses a bat to execute. Ninten, though, stands out compared to Ness and Luca due to not having offensive skills like Flash or a secret, special attack (Rockin and Love). Ninten has all the healing moves and shields but does have other abilities. Like Lucas, Ninten has stat buffs, standing out with a speed boost move. He has a defense down debuff and the Beginnings unique 4-D Split, a guaranteed run away (none of the annoying mechanics of running away normally in Earthbound) but with a high PP cost.

I actually like that the protagonist is a support user because I feel as though they do much more in battle than if they were offensive. It makes the protagonist’s “power of friendship” matter because they are the ones keeping their friends alive. Nothing wrong with an offensive MP, but I think Ninten being the strict tanky support made for a more unique character.

One last aspect of Ninten, more of a crutch, is his asthma. Like Homesickness, it keeps Ninten from attacking. I love that a status ailment is also a part of the character, but it does get annoying during significant battles. The only way to heal it is through a asthma bottle or ending the fight. Only in Beginnings.

Saint Ana’s Fire: Snowman in Motion

“How lonely must it be in Snowman for Ana to fall in love with the first boy she sees in a dream?” Image from Wikibound

Paula’s predecessor and the main offensive PSI attacker in the group. She’s a young Christian girl from the white winter of Snowman who’s shy but kind. She joins the quest for the Holy Grail in order to find her missing mother. Ana’s role in the party is the offensive PSI glass-cannon, and bless the lord is she one of the best…when you get her up them levels. As the only one, she gets moves like Freeze and Fire that helps against enemies weak against special moves. Train her up and she gets the PK Beam, which is essentially the PK Rockin and Love of the game except Ana and other enemies get it. Also, it has a vendetta against one sorry mother fu-

But, the best thing about Ana compared to Paula is how much of a Jack of All Trades she is. She gets all the healing moves, up staging Ninten with Lifeup Omega, many status ailment moves like Paralysis, PK Magnet, PK Block, shield and shield breaks, and a frying pan. When she gets these moves, she proves her weight. But, like our next party member, she is a chore to catch up with Ninten due to being lv 1 when you recruit her. This was a chore in Earthbound but Paula is found at a reasonable place. Snowman had some powerful enemies like the Coca-Cola bear, and keeping her alive was pretty difficult. But it would be an understatement to say that Ana is a powerful ally.

Pink Lloyd: Wish You Were Here, Sometimes

“I’m so stereotypically nerdy that the designers surgically infused my glasses into my retinas!” Image from Wikibound

Jeff if he looked like his dad and had a lower IQ. I’m not being mean, there is no IQ stat here so Lloyd is technically dumber. A coward from Merrysville found in Twinkle Elementary, he joins Ninten on his quest after the latter assists him in getting and releasing fireworks from the Sweet’s ol’Little Factory. No idea why Morrigan Freeman suddenly paid rent in my head when I wrote that. He’s the only party member besides Pippi that is required to recruit in order to finish the game, as he’s needed to fix Eve the robot randy.

At first, Lloyd is a pretty weak. Like Ana, he starts at a pretty low level so he requires grinding to get him up to speed. I found him to be worse than Ana when this occurred since Lloyd doesn’t do much in the beginning. Because he only has a gun and no PSI, he doesn’t do a lot of damage in the beginning, so he’s a lot more tedious and boring compared to the others. As a physical attacker, Teddy does the job better than him later on. However, Lloyd does become more useful when he gets access to his gadgets, similar to Jeff. Unlike his blonde counterpart, the goods exclusive to Lloyd are only bought in certain stores rather than made using the IQ stat. Some of his best ones are the Laser Guns (PK Laser as an item), the Flamethrower (PK Fire as an item), and the bombs.

I do like how Lloyd only goes with Ninten because they become genuine friends together. Ana and Teddy join the cause because they have a personal vendetta with the main antagonist, but Lloyd lacks this character trait. Some might see him as the worst or the most uninteresting because of that, but it speaks more when you realize he’s doing this journey to better himself and be there for the first friend he ever made.

ICUPippi: …and she’s gone.

Teddy Roosevelt: Of the Booty-Busting Gang

“I suddenly looked at his weird hair, cropped it out, and pasted Gerald’s face from Hey Arnold under it. I hope all of you can’t unsee it.”

The leader of the Bla-Bla Gang (Black Blood Gang in the Japanese version because everything sounds cooler in Japan) who joins Ninten on their quest very late game (or early) to head to Mt. Itoi in order to avenge his parents who died there. He first appears as a boss before Ninten uses his balls for baseball. I like Teddy cause he uses swooordds, and looks like the Fonz. Shout out to all the greasers still thinking John F Kennedy is the president. Teddy is the Poo of the game since he’s the fourth member to join (still the 3rd since he shanks Lloyd to take his spot) but is more of a predecessor to Frank the Fly as a gang leader and the usage of blades.

Teddy is a one trick pony for physical attacks, but he’s no poo poo at the job. He gets the highest stats in the game with a physical stat of 86 compared to Ninten’s 5 and Lloyd’s 4, so his physical attacks using swords (his best being a damn katana) are on par with some powerful PSI attacks. I’ll admit it, I enjoyed his company. I actually liked the idea of the Frank character being a prominent party member, though his late entry doesn’t give you much time with him. Unfortunately, unless you do cheats, Teddy never gets to fight the final boss, being injured during the attack by a giant robot. I did sigh in anguish when Lloyd came back, but laughed when he did it riding solo in a tank.

Fun fact: because of the ambiguity of the Japanese version, it’s not clear whether or not Teddy survived his wounds. He is technically the only party member to potentially die.

The Story: Sporadic, But in a Fun and Creepy Way

The story and plot can be sporadic, and slow due to mentioned grievances, but it has a charm to it that becomes a staple for the franchise. It’s child-like writing definitely fits well with the game’s Peanut artstyle. You deliver a baby chick back into a town made up of chickens, ride a tank in a desert in search of a monkey cave, and talk to a man who feels forgotten. Combined with this imagination is a level of depth sometimes explored in the open that keeps it from being nothing more than a dumb kids game.

I call it sporadic because the main story only comes in snit-bits. It starts with the phone call, but really begins when you visit Queen Mary of Magicant, a pink cloud world full of Magician Reds and freakin eyeballs, for the first time. While the small cases around the world are important, getting the 8 melodies is how you actually progress into the finale. Some moments like the haunted house is connected to the melodies, keeping them from feeling like unnecessary filler, while others are annoyingly scattered throughout the country with vague hints to where they are.

The moment Queen Mary gets her memories back: “Lalala, I love living in-hey, what’s that ligh-“

It all comes together at the end when you sing the 8 melodies to Queen Mary, which reveals her identity as Maria (Ninten’s great-grandmother), and Giegue. It’s revealed that Maria, after getting yeeted to space, had taken care of Giegue 80 years ago liker her own Mewtwo…child. What the hell is that thing. Well, “that thing” invaded Earth due to George noping out of captivity and stealing the knowledge of PSI from his race. Thinking back on it, it’s a really good twist that adds a personal touch to Ninten and Giegue’s conflict. I love how tragic Giygas’s origin is and I’m glad Itoi added some depth to what could have been a generic final villain. With the little bits of George and Maria given in this game, it really puts everything together to make a unique “alien invasion” story. I do wish it was mentioned more and was put into full focus besides the 8 melodies, but I like what we get. It makes for an emotional end for the game.

What made everything so enjoyable despite how loose the plot can be is the way it induces a child-like nostalgia. Walking around a town, talking to people, and dealing with robots brings a familiar feeling like the times you’d come home from school to play on your game console, go outside in the backyard, or anything you did to escape the horrors of reality. Maybe minus the robot part, unless you’re life was more interesting than the rest. It all came together like a story we would probably make as a kid: scattered without direction but with many colorful creatures and people to encounter. However, unlike our flawed minds, this game did it with enough stability and heart to make it enjoyable for anyone.

The main characters and their small interactions, though slim, help convey this feeling while also being organic moments in the story. A stand-out moment happens when Ana and Ninten confess their love for each other. On the tops of Mt. Itoi, in a small cabin, the two tell how they feel to each alone in a room before escaping their troubles together in dance form. It’s heartwarming, cute, and conveys how everything to a child, even something small, is the most serious thing in the world. Even love…though it gets ruined by Teddy’s interference and a giant Gundam.

Yet, what stood out to me the most even to this day is its creepy and eerie atmosphere. Blue KKK and implied adult stuff is rampant in Earthbound, but it’s very subtle underneath the trip of drugs and quirky humor. Beginnings doesn’t have a lot of adult subtexts, but due to the dated graphics and supernatural moments there is a added level of eeriness that’s more blunt than it’s successor. It’s equivalent to walking around an empty town as the wind howls. Building’s creak, darkness replace doors, and you feel eyes all around you. Even within towns, the small amount of people gives an air of loneliness to this game.

“Hello, this is the Zoo help line. Waht? The animals escaped? No, honey, you’re calling on the wrong day. We only let them out when it’s Tuesday. Wait, right now? Ooooh, that’s been the blood curdling screams I’ve been hearing all day. You know, I thought it was a bit strange when that man came at the window and screamed ‘help me god, please!’ I just thought it was one of those Catholics again, running on and on about their sins. I opened the window and threw him a Devil’s cake to scurry him off. Now, honey, I’m gonna have hang up the phone now, I think the lions got out. No, they’re not reenacting Mufasa’s death, they’re eviscerating human Simba right now. I got to go, I got to go. Bye honey, I’ll see you at 4.” Image from Wikibound

One of my favorite examples happens early on when you enter into the abandoned zoo for the mayor. Kicking the monkey out and getting the key, you go in to find out why the animals have gone berserk. You wonder around alone, not a single person in sight. Some animals stay in their pens while others prowl around the facility; you’re their prey. The music brings an air of unease as you try to get to the nearest building, though I imagine its either loud from animals or silent. The graphics add to the tone, to me, because of how simple it makes everything. It’s what I love about old games because the setting is conveyed enough in a way for you to fill in the gaps with your mind. Even when you escape the jaws of the alligator and the claws of the bear, you’re still not safe in this building. It’s empty and quiet, with the only things remaining being the scuttering of rats and a strange alien in an empty room.

Beginnings finds a great balance between a children’s story and an atmospheric horror story. Though the random encounters become a chore, the difficulty puts players on the edge as danger lurks in every corner. This type of tone makes Beginnings a better alien invasion in a rural area game than Earthbound, to me. I love the quirkiness of Earthbound but I also love the atmosphere of Beginnings. It always feels like a more expanded version of the Stonehenge arc, which was very much the classic example of an alien invasion. The story of Beginnings can be frustrating to get through, and it sometimes feels like a less refined Earthbound (which it really is), but it has memorable moments and a tone that’s consistent and engaging. To me, the best aspect of each game goes as followed: Earthbound is the adventure, Mother 3 is the story, and Beginnings is the tone.

Soundtrack:

It’s okay. It helps establish the tone I ranted about earlier, but I didn’t go gaga for the soundtrack this time around. It’s not because its the NES, because I love the Mario 3 soundtrack, but more like it’s just not my kind of sound. The one’s I found the best include Magicant, the factory theme, and Giegue’s theme. Magicant utilizes the beeps and boops of the NES to create a weird but fantastical theme that really represents the world as a concept. It has an aura similar to temple themes of other JRPGS, but I find Magicant unique because it best represents what Mother is: quirky with heart. I especially love how chippy and happy it is. Most mystical themes go for an intriguing sound, but Magicant just goes full ham with its cheerful noise.

I definitely like this version a lot more than Ness’s due to being more recognizable to the ears and short. Ness’s Magicant theme is okay, definitely has bits of the original in it and fits with Ness’s whimsical and nonsensical version of the place, but I find myself leaning more toward Maria’s. Also, you can’t help and deny the remixes of the original are pretty damn emotional. Especially bauerklos’s version, which should be sued if this game gets a remake.

The factory’s theme is one of my favorite dungeon themes due to its simple execution. The foreboding nature throughout helps establish the factory as a dark place where horrors can be found, evident with the weird scientist and robot enemies. But I love how the static effect of the NES is used to make it seem the machinery is still alive in the place and continuing what they were made to do. Gives, as Henry from MXR would say, IMMERSION.

“There’s something so eye-catching and creepy about Giegue’s original look. I wonder if this is the Devil Machine.” Image from Wikibound

The final in-game song, or track, is Giegue’s theme. And when I mean song, I mean white noise and some pushes of a button. Unlike other final boss themes like from Ocarina of Time or Okami, this track doesn’t go for a high emotional punch that favors the hero or the villian. Instead, it gives an ominous sense of dread. The best way to describe it is like a UFO hovering above the battle field, its strange machinery filling the air with its presence. Sometimes it sounds like a legion of UFOs ready to attack. The theme fits Giegue and the game well because of its alien-like nature, but also makes Giygas stand out among other final bosses.

Props to him, he did it twice. It doesn’t sound like something a human would make. There’s voids in it, gaps that our imaginative minds need to fill but are denied the request. Itoi is a creative genius when it came to developing this franchise, but the tracks by Suzuki and Tanaka prove others helped in that genius.

Other Issues

Mt Itoi-This part was freaking hard when I first got there. I learned that, apparently, the team had to ship out the game before pre-testing the area for the release date. Because of that bull, the place is a huge difficulty spike. I had to actually grind for a while just to get through it. However, it becomes a joke once you find EVE as she pummels everything in sight.

“George honest to god came to this mountain and thought, ‘Mwah, mwah. Perfect location with the finest view of corpses and glitched out squirrels. Nobody visits me for some reason.” Image from Earthbound Fandom

Leveling– Skills can be learned up until around the 40s, but you can beat this game with levels under 30 (though it’d be a lot hard). I finished the game with Ninten and Lloyd around the 30 mark and Ana at 25. Similar with Pokemon Gold, I find the leveling system quite strange and unbalanced.

Does it even matter– And, as a personal thing looking back while comparing it to the trilogy, Beginnings is both really remembered and forgotten in later installments. Beginnings is definitely an important game in understanding the origins of PSI and Giygas, and yet Earthbound essentially became a reimagining of it. Ness, Paula, and Jeff are redesigns of the Beginnings party, especially Ness was designed exactly like Ninten with the hat pointing the opposite way (there is some more slightly differences). Much of the music has been reused in Earthbound: the random battle music becoming the boss theme, the Yucca Desert theme becoming the Dusty Dunes Desert theme, Pollyanna becoming Ness’s home theme, and Snowman becoming a series staple song. Certain events are played out similarly like a gang taking over a town and people being kidnapped and put into green pods. Even the story of Earthbound itself is about a group of kids finding the 8 melodies to defeat Giygas, who is influencing the world with his powers. Earthbound comes across as Beginnings refined to perfection, leaving Beginnings to feel like a first draft.

And yet, despite Earthbound originall being called “Mother 2: Giygas Strikes Back,” it’s not really a sequel because Beginnings is barely referenced. Now, fans of the series might argue the Mother series doesn’t have a concrete timeline. Beginnings takes place in 1988 but Earthbound takes place in 199X (whatever that means) meaning Giygas went to the future 10 years after Earthbound after taking over and then went back to the equivalent of a few years after the first game (yet America is never mentioned once at all and you can’t tell me Eagleland is America). Yet, Mother 3’s year is so disclosed the rest of Civilization ended by the time the prologue starts. Since Porky was directly stated to have traveled throughout time, who knows when Mother 3 took place.

Besides the lack of Mericans, none of the events that took place are referenced in the slightest. George discovering PSI, the Youngtown disappearances, or the fact an alien came. You’d think Ninten or Lloyd would have figured out that weird crap was going on. What, is CNN just as bad in fictional America? Giygas barely talks about his grand nephew and the Starmen never mention how Ness looks like the other baseball loving Asian.

Sure, Earthbound is barely mentioned in Mother 3, again from the playthrough I watched, but it’s referenced way more and is actually important to the story. Porky becomes, gasp from no one, the main villain and the end of the game basically shows you snit-bits of Ness’s journey. It’s presence is more felt here than Beginnings in Earthbound.

“I know this is for the fans but Lucas has no context for this. He must be thinking, ‘what the hell is this? I pay $2 to see some fat kid fight barf?” Image from Earthbound Fandom

I remember, before playing Beginnings, that someone had told me it wasn’t really important to play when playing all the games. I found it strange considering there are only 3 games, Nintendo please, but after playing it I can’t help but agree to an extent. I would have liked something to have been referenced, but having only Giygas be important makes the rest of Beginnings feel like an unnecessary prologue.

Overview: Is it Worth Playing?

After every compliment and criticism I gave this game, I did wonder whether or not you should actually play it as a casual or even a Earthbound fan? To the latter, I say of course! *Smack to the head* Get your hands on a ROM or pay it on the Wii U and play it. For others, understand that this is a pretty difficult experience and that this ain’t for everyone, more so than Earthbound. If you hate JRPGS, you’re gonna get hate this game. If you’re new to JRPGs, I’d say play others like Pokemon or Final Fantasy to understand how the genre works. I wouldn’t say this is an entry into this genre. If you’re a veteran JRPG player of old, new, or both, then I say check this game out after playing Earthbound. Earthbound will get you pretty situated into this weird franchise without pulling out your hair, and if you’ve only played the fantasy or science fiction games than this more modern world may become fresh for you.

“The hell category 10 hurricane is going on in the planet? Image from Wikibound

Me personally, I enjoyed the game with its faults. I enjoyed the world at its best, the story at its most critical, and the characters at their most charming. It’s hard, simple, and very strange. I mean, a town of ducks, man. I think people should play it at their own disposal or at least give it a chance. It’s not perfect, but it’s an imaginative and fairly executed experience that’ll have you singing the Eight Melodies on your Ocarina. Not the time one, Saria’s high school project one. I give Earthbound Beginnings a 6/10.

See you all when I play Mother 3 in 2056!

-Samuel Argueta

Recommendation Corner

John Lennon: Mother

This is the song that influenced Itoi to not only name the series Mother, but a lot of the creative decisions with the franchise due to Itoi connecting with Lennon as a person. Ever wonder why the first 2 games barely feature the father besides a phone? Well, I gave this song a listen to learn the roots of the franchise and for my novel.

The only way for me to describe the emotions of this song is a cry for help.

Image from wikipedia, all credit goes to the original uploader.

SSSS. Dynazenon

The continuation of SSSS. Gridman and the anime I’ve been watching for the summer. It’s a bit slower and I do find the original more interesting, but this show has its strengths and definitely has a good cast of characters. I also haven’t finished it, so take my words with a grain of salt.

Image from Gridman Fandom, all credit to original uploader

Super Metroid

Super Metroid is one of those rare games to me where I can repeatedly play it and never get bored. The amount of replayability is so good that it’s better than any of the overdone statements people have used to describe it. The alien world is fully detailed and gives a tone of mystery and exploration.

Get it on the Switch, the 3ds, or the Wii U. This game is the definition of what a video game should be, and Nintendo pulled this off in the 90s!

Metal Arms: Glitch In The System

(Note: Sorry for the late upload. A family emergency put me behind schedule. Nothing happened, don’t worry, but let’s just say that tired me out into bed earlier than usual.)

Introduction:

Metal Arms: Glitch in the System, a 2003 GameCube game I fondly remembered playing as a kid…as long as my brother’s best friend came around. He would bring it over for us to play together. I vaguely remember the days we played, only retrieving small fragments like ink pigments, but I do remember how much of an impact it had on me. It sucks because our friend would later move away, taking with him fond memories he made with me and my brother. Still miss him. The game kind of became a fever dream I would have sometimes. In these moments, I questioned if the game was even real and was just the result of my childhood over imagination. It became a mystery my thoughts obsessed over.

“You’ve got the touch! You’ve got the-OH SH!T!”
Screenshot from Neoseeker

Thankfully, I learned I wasn’t too psychotic since I found the game’s name in a search back in my good old days of high school. Waves of nostalgia hit me as I dug deep into this forgotten gem. I found gameplay footage and listened to the soundtrack in preparing myself when I get my own dirty hands on it. It wouldn’t happen until I received a $25 Game Stop gift card, by spending all the points I had accumulated over the years from my dentist location, that I could buy the game.

I ordered both Metal Arms and Viewtiful Joe 1 off the online store and played both babies for a solid 3 months. I won’t count this in the pros and cons but playing in blind was one of the best gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time. 3 years later and I’m finally gonna add myself to the list of people who remember and value this scrubbed classic.

The Wonderful and Brutal War Of Iron Star

“In the planet of Cybertron….”
Image from Metal Arms Fandom

The story begins with 2 Droid fighters and a dog, Zoggy, rummaging through a wasteland and discovering a strange robot named Glitch. They decide to bring him back to Droid Town, while noting the strange mark on the back of his head. Optics reactivated, he is greeted by Colonel Alloy, leader of a Droid resistance, and Krunk, a no sh!t taking bot with a foul mouth. Afterwards,  a 1900’s style war documentary on the planet plays, telling of the mysterious and unseen Morbots within the core, the Droid race, the beloved Dr Exavolt, and the inevitable explosion he caused that unleashes an evil, war bent General Corrosive and their Mil army.

Unfortunately, they weren’t given the emotion love and they soon became the ruling race on the planet, deactivating droids or making them their slaves. General Alloy leads the Droid Rebellion in the allusive Droid Town, hoping to one day bring the Droid race back to the top and destroy General Corrosive. As Glitch is reactivated, he decides for himself to help the rebellion after he finds out he and the 2 droids that saved him are the only ones left to defend Droid Town when Mils invaded the mines.

Throughout the story, Glitch is accompanied and helped by a variety of colorful characters. There’s Krunk, Zoggy, Mozer, who can’t get his piston up, Slosh, who’s seen some major sh!t, Agent Shush, who’s really quiet, and Agent Goff, a preacher?, and Shady and Mr. Pockets, two weapon merchants that don’t want to get into too much trouble.

Gameplay

You play as Glitch, voiced by the man and legend Dave Wittenburg who also directed the game. Metal Arm is a 3rd person shooter where you get to explore the vast majority of Iron Star, from the Wasteland, to Mil City, and the Ruins, in 49 levels tearing apart Mils in your way.

“Till all are one!”
Image from Dolphin

In each level, their a variety of enemies that pound you to ground, getting more and more difficult in terms of how many there are and how much damage they cause. There are the Mil Grunts differently colored depending on their weapons, Titans, Guards, WTF?!, and Troopers.

“Ooooh, Zombiebot is tired of being bullied into pieces!”
Image from Metal Arm Fandom

It wouldn’t be a third person shooter without a variety of a$$ kicking weapons. The primary weapons, shot by R, consist of guns such as the Mining Laser, a Rocket Launcher, a Shotgun, and a Rivet Gun that can be upgraded for Washes(that cash-money). Secondary weapons come in a variety of bombs like grenades, Magma bombs that spread fire, and even a Recruiter bomb that can reprogram Mils to your side. You can even go commando and bitch slap everyone with Z.

All guns can be upgraded by underground merchants scattered throughout levels. There ain’t no window watching, so you better be buying some kind of ammo, upgrade, or Energy with those hard-earned Washes.

Speaking of reprogramming Mils, one of the main and best mechanics of the game is taking over Mils and using their special arsenal. This is done in two ways. One occurs for earlier levels through literal Arcade Machines. Pop in a chip and control that level’s designated Mil for a short time to complete some task.

The second is through a primary gun known as the Tether, invented by Krunk, that can shoot a wire into a Mil’s backside to send your spark into them. This lasts longer and you’re in control of which Mil you want for the situation. Unfortunately, the range isn’t long, so you have to keep close to your body or else you lose the signal.

Some level’s even let you play as the other characters, adding to the variety and creativity the game has. Besides that, you can take control of vehicles and gun stations with the Y button. Some vehicles include the R.A.T, Sentinel Tank, and Loader. This helps prevent any repetitiveness and keeps you engaged with each level. Some levels have other special features, but I’ll let you discover it in your own playthrough.

Finally, the enemies and their A.I were given a lot of attention-to-detail that not only lead to funny moments but also change in combat. First is Stealth, which I’ll admit I never really see in person. It is possible to walk past enemies without them knowing. I have dabbled in the concept by throwing bombs, since the Mil’s A.I actually listen to sound. Check out Vuthakral’s video on the Titan’s stealth mechanics to found out more. It is just one enemy, but it does show the depths of the enemy A.I and the idea of other Mil’s in this predicament.

“My…name…is…Slosh.” Quote from Slosh if he was in Netflix Siege
Image from Metal Arms Fandom

Enemies can actually be disarmed thanks to a mechanic where you can blow off or cut off their body parts. This can make combat easy as you can target their weapon’s and make them useless. Some include: Blowing off the legs of a Titan to immobilize them, breaking off the heads of Grunts to remove their ability to aim, and blowing off the arms of a Hunter so you can just watch them fly around thinking “Ah dammit, I’m defective!”

Pros:

“Will the party who released the main protagonist into the Mil City please take him back, he is dismembering a citizen…thank you.”
Image from Neoseeker

Humorous Yet Dark

Much of the humor is pretty childish, like how Glitch threatens Vlax that he’ll cut off his legs and “spill his reserve oils” all over his eyes, but it works effectively to contrast the death that goes around. Krunk basically says a cuss word ever f$%cking minute, and sometimes, if you wait a while, the Mils actually toot on duty. In some moments, the humor is subtle and quirky, like a Mil spy speaks to glitch like Billy Graham to encourage him while also saying he won’t join him since he didn’t “sign up for no suicide mission.” I love the humor, but it may not be in your taste.

As I said with Earthbound, I like a comedy that isn’t just that, especially when it gets dark sometimes. With Metal Arms, death is shown a lot with no empathy or sympathy from characters. The whole story is about Iron Star destroyed by the Mils, and you see this when going through the ruined cities. Zombiebots swarm these wastelands, clawing at both droids and Mils alike while hanging the dead like the Predator. I’ll get to the sound design later, but their whole sound design reveals a monstrous animal that sends shivers down anyone’s spine.

The Mils take pleasure in the destruction and oppression of Droids. When you listen to their dialogue, you get robots who laugh and taunt at you in the middle of battle. In one special conversation, two Mils discuss Droid Hunting and one asks if he can stick a rachet in their necks with a laugh.

One section of the game pits you in a Colosseum, where they put helpless droids into the slaughter for the amusement of many. The first thing you wake up to is a busted-up Droid who basically says the only way out is death. The concept of death means nothing to these characters, which adds to the grunge, war ridden atmosphere the game is trying to present. The Mils are a threat to be taken seriously, even when they can be hilarious sometimes, adding to the conflict. The humor and dark themes mix perfectly together, giving it an identity that screams “Metal Arms.”

Worldbuilding

The first cutscene tells you everything you need to know about this world. Morbots made it, Morbots made droids, Droids advance with space debri and the rich ore within the planet, and Dr Exovolt f$%ks it up. But as you explore the planet, each location gives you more in-depth look into the planet and establishing a dark and mysterious tone. You see the ruins that lays in the deserts, the death from the hanging bodies in the Wasteland, and the industrial advancements with the Mil City.

“I’ve got better things to do than die!”
Image from Neoseeker

Iron Star is a dirty, war ridden planet that loves the colors brown, red, and grey. The characters show this as well with their designs, from the rust, sand, and scars on their bodies. War is dirty, and Metal Arms exemplifies this. Yet, when you explore Morbot City, you get a clean, alien like environment that contrasts heavily with the above world, but the cracks do show with the Mil invasion. It adds a mystery to the lore of the planet, making you wonder who the Morbots were like the characters. The world is shown masterfully, and the immersion it brings to the players invests them into the story.

Graphics

For the GameCube version at least, the graphics look good and add to the dirty feel the game goes for. It’s a lot better than the PS2 graphics.

Difficult Yet Fun

The game can be extremely difficult, which is a double edged sword, but that’s what makes it fun. Enemy A.I, at least from what I’ve experienced in Normal, are pretty smart and armed to the teeth. After every level, the next one remembers what ammo you had left. Without conserving and being smart with it, you can be left in a hard level with a little resource to get you through. Not only that, tough enemies take a lot of ammo to destroy. Don’t be surprised if you get the Mission Failed screen a lot.

“One shall stand…and that’s you private! Get your a$$ up and fight!” Image from Metal Arms Fandom

However, once you get the hang of the weapons and controls, the game becomes incredibly fun to play. Every weapon has a purpose and I never felt any was useless. The Rivet is a sniper, the Shotgun is good for close combat, and the flamethrower does continuous damage. Each one is given a purpose within specific levels as well, like the Slingshot in the 4th Colosseum level. The game gives a lot of room for experimentation and time to use each one, since you’ll probably die a lot.

Sound Design And Voice Actors

Sound Design: Jojo’s sound design made me appreciate the concept a lot more. It doesn’t have to be crazy, like The World’s time stop, but it does have to sound good, and Metal Arms gets it. The sounds are loud and pack a huge punch. Shoot a rocket or fire the shotgun and you feel like your next it as it lands. You can hear each of the Mil’s parts blowing off as the screen goes crazy with explosions. The immersion of the world wouldn’t be as good as it is without the sound design. Its heaviness pulls you in and keeps your attention.

“Momentai. Now give me that chip rust bucket!” Image from Gamer Gallery

Voice Actors: Despite being a small project, there are quite a handful of big-name actors, which I found mostly on Imbd. Dave Wittenburg as Glitch, who was also a crap ton of characters like Henry Wong from Digimon Tamers. Dan Castellaneta as Krunk, best known for the role of Homer Simpson. Patrick Warburton as Mozer, who I best remember as Kronk from Emperor’s New Groove. Rob Paulsen as Hosed and Vlax, who has voiced characters such as Yakko from Animaniacs. Daran Norris as the Newsreal announcer, who played Cosmo and Timmy’s dad from Fairly Oddparents.

This small handful of actors didn’t break out a star performance per say, but I did find the voice acting enjoyable and fun to listen to. Even the uncredited voice actors who voiced the grunt Mils, which I’m not sure if its Rob or someone else, did a good job portraying stupid and hilarious droid who talk smack.

Cons:

Aiming

Now I can’t say for certain if the PS2 or Xbox versions are better or worse, but the aiming and controls for it are really sensitive. There is a reticle that glows red when you target enemies but moving the C-stick throws the camera too quick. It doesn’t help that enemies run and dodge around a lot to avoid fire. So, most of the time I die because I miss just the slightest and waste so much ammo trying to stay on one enemy.

Now I do play with aim assist that I thought did the trick, but I was given the idea to turn it off by Youtuber Cvit, who touched upon it in his own review. Check out his video. I turned it off to test my copy, since he mostly played the other versions, and I actually found nothing really different. In his video, the camera swings toward enemies when aiming assist is on. But on my copy, I found nothing of the sorts happening. Whether or not it works on the Gamecube, I’m not sure.

“*Sigh* We’re all gonna die.”
Image from Model Resources

R.A.T Controls

While most of the controls work fine, the R.A.T and any level with them is absolutely horrendous. You go forward and back with the control switch but turn with C-stick. Imagine getting confused with that the first time while doing a timer level with movement akin to ice physics. It becomes chaotic to get used to, and it’s just unfun when you do understand the controls.

Difficulty Becomes Much At Times

While I do find the difficulty fun most of the time, there are levels that become so difficult I just want them over with. One level, “The Hand is Mightier,” introduces the Titans with shields and split rockets. 3 of them. I have to play it smart because if I don’t *explosion.* Plus, this level is split into two section and the only checkpoint is the halfway point. So, if I die before then I have to do it all over again. When I played it the second time for this review, I just gave up doing it till tomorrow because it became tiring.

“Am I even denting it? Oh sh!t what am I gonna do now!”
Image from Neoseeker

Again, not all levels are like this, and your experience might be different, but when those difficulty spikes come it’s sucks out all the fun You just want it over so you can play the rest of the game. Dying a lot has its pros and cons, and sometimes you’ll either be in the mood for it or not.

I never played hard or Nut’s of Steel, aka the impossible mode. I have no idea what could be in store, and frankly I don’t think the game would be fun. If you’re the person who loves a really hard challenge, then I say do it. But if you want difficulty that doesn’t become overwhelming, then I say with normal.

Droid A.I. Sucks

“We must stop the Mils at all cost. Let’s just not send out these guys.”
Image from Metal Arms Fandom

This is a nitpick, but the Droid’s A.I on your side sucks. When you get them, you think you’ll keep them for the rest of the level. Instead, I find them dying 15 minutes into helping. Sometimes their okay, like the third level in the game “Do or Die.” But in future levels with rocket launching Titans and swarming Mils, expect their burnt heads in burning piles. Heck, in “Find the Spy Factory,” I found out they despawn when you leave them into the tunnel so you don’t get to keep them the way. I only found that out because I took him to a safe space, unrecruited him, and left him their to fight the rest of enemies because I got tired of letting them die.  They’re unhelpful, and what they can do you do much better alone or with a recruited Mil. No wonder the Droid Rebellion hasn’t gotten far without Glitch, reprogrammed Mil’s act like better soldiers than the actual Droids

Spoiler Warning: Ignore This Part If You Want To Avoid Spoilers

“Destiny! You cannot…destroy my…destiny!”
Image from Blockfort

Unfinished Story

The synopsis for the game really is the only amount of story you’re really gonna get. The story is fun, with funny and tense moments throughout, but you never learn who Glitch is as a protagonist. Don’t expect huge revelations about who Glitch is and why he has that mark, which is only brought up in the first cutscene only. His character backstory is never brought up ever again. The game does show that he is a cocky but helpful droid care about the people who help him all the way. Without that character trait, there never really was a reason why he went far as he did to destroy the Mils. It’s not like General Corrosive or Exavolt. But you never learn about him, and that’s all due to the original trilogy plan Swingin Ape studios.

This was supposed to be a trilogy, and the second installment was supposed to tell that Glitch was in fact a Morbot creation, which is not surprising. Also, the plan was for General Corrosive to also be a Morbot creation, not Dr Exavolt who was just a pawn, and that Glitch was going to get revenge on the Morbots. It sounds exciting, and I would have loved to see their execution, but Swinging Apes Studios didn’t get to do it.

Despite Metal Arms being a success, the company got absorbed into Blizzard and never heard from again. They had been assigned to develop StarCraft Ghost, but that got cancelled. The series has had no second installment in 17 years, and I highly doubt Blizzard is gonna recreate the magic again. I can’t claim to know or follow Blizzard, but I doubt they can do the sequel justice after that “Do you not have phones!?” comment. Until something comes up, and the game continues to get noticed, I doubt the story will ever get finished. The game’s story is good as is, with fun mysterious, but it leaves you wanting answers.

Spoilers Over

Conclusion

Despite its rugged edges, Metal Arms: Glitch in the System is a great game for what it is. A funny and dark war story about robots blowing each up that will keep you invested by its creative mechanics, great gameplay, quirky humor, and ambitious story. It’s a shame that it never got the audience it deserved in the beginning, despite its early success, and the continuation of what Swinging Apes studios planned. I swear, most of the things I love either have a small audience or never get finished.

I am glad the game is getting noticed on YouTube, and I hope all this attention brings us some kind of remaster or sequel from Blizzard. I just hope they don’t give it to us without what made the game special in the first place: dirty, humorous, and innovative gameplay.

Metal Arms is a game beloved to my childhood, and I hope my review didn’t have too much bias. With that, I give the game an 8/10 and a message for you to remember. You are a robot…and destroy!

-Samuel Argueta