Using stylistic aspects of hardware limitations for modern games is a pretty common thing. Titles like Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight have gained critical success by appealing to the nostalgia of gamers using this technique. However, what differentiates a good retro inspired game from the bad is how much depth the game has actually been given. I was going to give a bad example of a retro styled game, then I realised I can’t remember any, which actually proves my point. If you want to model your game after a previous age of video gaming then you really need to give the player something that really catches their eye, something that they are familiar with yet feel intrigued to play. The other day I was introduced to Bonus Level Entertainment and their 16-bit brain child that is Fox ‘n Forests, which has rejuvenated my faith in ‘retro styled’ video games.
Bonus Level Entertainment describe the game as ‘Inspired by the glorious days of 16-Bit and all time classics like Super Ghouls ’n Ghosts, Wonder Boy in Monster World and ActRaiser 2 as well as the Castlevania and Zelda series.’ Even with just the title ‘Fox ‘n Forests’, you can tell what Bonus Level are getting at. I love the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, and even just giving that style of game a tip of the hat means they’re okay in my book. From the looks of things however, this game is more than just a mere reference to the 16-bit era. In fact, it feels like pure passion for the 16-bit glory days poured into one game. Even just the choice of using a fox called Rick that wears green trousers brings back memories of edgy woodland characters (looking at you, hedgehog) of my childhood. So on the face of things, we already have a game that would be believable as a title on the Super Nintendo itself, but the question is, what does this game provide that the 90’s couldn’t?
One of the biggest differences between an actual retro game and a modern stylised one is always how polished the game is. From the trailer, we can see that the game has a high quality of animation and yet does not suffer from
slow down like a retro game would. This is always an important aspect to cover, as many retro inspired titles take the easy way out and make a game that could have easily ran on a toaster from 1970. The game also utilizes an outstanding colour pallet, which is both eye catching and familiar feeling, similar to games like Secret of Mana. Your eyes then start to notice the sprite quality of the game, which isn’t just well designed, but also feels unique to the game’s style and gives the player an idea of what kind of environment they are in. There is a particular part of the trailer when you are attacked by a large hornet style boss, which got me really excited because I love boss battles, and the quality and design of the sprite really appealed to me. All the glitter aside however, what does this game do mechanically? Well it seems as if it has a lot to offer.
Our Foxy friend is described to be wielding something called a ‘magic melee crossbow’ he can use to outfox his foes (sorry) as it doubles up as a melee and ranged weapon. The crossbow also allows you to change the seasons, which in turn alters the levels layout and design. I imagine that this is going to add many different paths and layers to the game, giving it that ‘MetroidVania’ feel that is commonly used. The magic aspect of your abilities looks to be an interchangeable feature, the trailer demonstrating a lightning attack. There are a host of gameplay and prototype videos that show off what this game is trying to achieve, which are viewable on the game’s Kickstarter page. Now many people become hesitant these days when they hear about games requiring a crowdfunded source, as other anticipated titles such as Mighty Number 9 have failed to deliver on promises. However, there are various reasons that lead me to believe that the campaign for this game is honest and willing to deliver.
The Kickstarter campaign already has prototype videos that clearly show the look and feel of the game while also showcasing the level design. The game also identifies as 16-bit, while not promising to be a ‘reimagination’ of a previous classic, which means that the development process for this game won’t be dragged down by a need to satisfy fan service. The fact that there is a lot of information at consumer’s disposal at this early stage of development is also a good sign that you’ll get what you see in the gameplay videos.
Now I don’t usually get excited for new games, especially since I have a backlog of retro games to play. However, I will say that Fox ‘n Forests looks to be a well-crafted 16-bit delight and, hopefully, it manages to reach its Kickstarter goal. It’s actually refreshing to see companies use the 16-bit style as opposed to the 8-bit for a change, which hopefully appeals to all the 90’s kids out there. Basically I am looking forward to seeing how this develops and recommend anyone with a soft spot for the SNES or MegaDrive to keep their eyes peeled for what might be a modern classic in the future. If the Kickstarter is successful, you will be able to play this game on Steam and possibly other consoles too.
If you would like to support Fox n’ Forests on Kickstarter, click here to find out more about the backer rewards and details.