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‘Dragon Quest V’ is Everything an RPG Should Be

With bold framing and an epic story, Dragon Quest V asserts itself as one of the most impressive RPGs of all time.

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Dragon Quest V

The miracle of life is a beautiful thing, especially in 16-bit. Opening a story with a birth isn’t exactly uncommon, but it does have a certain weight to it— it’s a statement. “This story starts from the beginning.” As far as game introductions go, Dragon Quest V juices everything it can out of its Hero’s birth. The tension is palpable as the player’s father, Pankraz, anxiously awaits the birth of his son. There’s value to a slow burn, and a more methodically paced plot works well considering the story ultimately takes place over the course of 26 years, chronicling an entire generation of the main character’s life. Such bold framing requires a delicate narrative touch, but that doesn’t mean the game is slow. Between excellent level design, a monster recruitment system that predates Pokémon, and a wide breadth of optional content, Dragon Quest V asserts itself as one of the most impressive RPGs of all time.

Originally released for the Super Famicom in 1992, Dragon Quest V is an important entry in the series for a number of reasons. For starters, it was the franchise’s first foray into 16-bit, and despite being an early Super Famicom title, DQV stands out as one of the most dense RPGs on the console. Not just that, V’s release would mark the last time that Chunsoft would work as the primary developer of a mainline Dragon Quest, with Heartbeat taking over development for VI, III’s Super Famicom remake, VII, and IV’s PlayStation remake. Not only that, Dragon Quest V sees the first directorial change in the series as Chunsoft founder, Koichi Nakamura, transitions into a supervisor position, leaving the director’s spot open for future Heartbeat founder, Manabu Yamana. 

With an experienced dev team four games in and a new director bursting with ideas, it’s not difficult to piece together why Dragon Quest V was such a monumental title for the Super Famicom. This isn’t even considering Yuji Horii’s script for the game, arguably his best-written work. Covering roughly thirty years of a single character’s life is going to be compelling through concept alone, but Yuji Horii’s writing in Dragon Quest V has a layer of emotional maturity that even some of the best written modern games lack. 

Life with Dad, Concept Art by Akira Toriyama

This isn’t to say the first four Dragon Quest games are poorly written by any stretch of the imagination, just that they’re understandably on the light side when it comes to the narrative given when they were released. Dragon Quest is charming, but its story doesn’t go beyond that; Dragon Quest II strives for more narratively but is bogged down by poor pacing & a lack of play-testing; Dragon Quest III finds a nice middle ground between I and II, but opts for a very traditional Hero’s Journey (which does have its place;) and Dragon Quest IV’s framing is the allure of the story, not the plot itself. 

With Dragon Quest V, it’s possible to enjoy the story just for its writing. Although the Super Famicom original never left Japan, the game did see a Nintendo DS remake in 2008, followed by a worldwide localization in 2009. As if that weren’t enough, the Nintendo DS remake actually lifts narrative elements from the RPG’s 2004 Japan-exclusive PS2 remake that greatly expanded both the Super Famicom version’s gameplay and story. The DS remake would later be ported to mobile devices, but for all intents and purposes, Dragon Quest V’s definitive version is based off the DS remake. 

It’s one thing for a remake to improve upon its base game to the point of replacing it, but it’s another when the title being remade was already one of the best entries in its genre. The Super Famicom version’s issues mainly stem from a forced party of three instead of four, and rather uninspired villains. While the latter is par for the course (save Psaro the Manslayer from DQ IV,) the former is a bit more suspect. It doesn’t hurt the game and is clearly in place to ensure that players vary up their party as much as possible, but that’s not exactly something audiences need to be forced to do in a game with dozens of recruitable party members. 

The PlayStation 2 remake is the title actually deserving of praise as far as making Ladja a better antagonist and lightening up combat restrictions go, but the game features 3D models which, while nice, aren’t the best reimagining of the 2D sprites. On the other hand, the DS remake bases itself visually off of Dragon Quest IV’s PS1 remake, keeping the game’s aesthetic closer, generationally and stylistically, to the Super Famicom original’s art style. More importantly, the DS remake features even more new content in the form of a new bride, bolstering the game’s already alluring marriage system.

A Standard Battle, Dragon Quest V (Super Famicom)

It’s not unusual for Dragon Quest V discourse to center itself almost solely around monster recruitment and marriage. While recruiting monsters has a natural appeal (especially those designed by legendary Dragon Ball mangaka Akira Toriyama,) getting married and starting a family isn’t exactly an RPG staple. At the same time, Dragon Quest V’s pacing is quite unlike other games, let alone the ones that predated it. The story itself is divided into three distinct chapters: the Hero’s childhood at the age of 6, his time as a freed slave 10 years later, and his life as a father 8 years after the end of the second chapter. It’s basically Dragon Quest’s love of vignettes framed through different eras of life instead of town associated story arcs. 

While the game itself does still follow the series’ established formula of going to a new town, dealing with a mini-arc, and moving on, the framing allows the story to make better use of these seemingly independent narrative beats while also keeping the plot focused. The passage of time also adds a sense of reality to the experience. Characters age, towns change, and how the Hero interacts with the world is directly related to how mature he is narratively. Not just that, it’s refreshing to see an RPG protagonist set out on a goal and not wrap up all his loose ends in what logically could only have been a month or two. 

It really can’t be stressed enough just how much of a boon it is that Dragon Quest V takes place over the course of 26 years. A good chunk of time is indeed skipped, but the story is never afraid to linger. In any other RPG, playing as the 6-year-old Hero would take place in a half hour to hour-long prologue with restrictive gameplay. While monster recruitment is admittedly locked until after the first time skip (Dragon Quest V’s childhood takes a good few hours to get through) it isn’t a one and done deal. Rather, it has its own set of mini-arcs, all culminating in one of the most agonizingly tragic moments in the series. 

Above all else, Dragon Quest V is a story about the rawness of life. The Hero’s father, expectedly, dies before his eyes, but Pankraz’ death goes beyond a father figure dying. He’s a genuinely fleshed-out character by this point in the story. Not just that, he’s the closest thing the plot has to an active protagonist. The Hero has his own adventures, but the prologue frames itself as Pankraz’s journey— which it initially is. After a surprisingly tense impossible to win boss fight, audiences are forced to sit back and watch as their father, through actual gameplay, lets down his guard and allows himself to be killed in order to save his son. 

A Hardened Hero 10 Years Later, Concept Art by Akira Toriyama

Dragon Quest V almost makes the audience think that Pankraz will be able to get himself out. He’s managed to live this long, why die now? But that’s the nature of life and where Yuji Horii’s writing shines. The script doesn’t pull punches when it comes to drama. Pankraz isn’t killed offscreen or in passing, he’s vaporized to nothing in front of players’ eyes. Pankraz isn’t just the Hero’s father dying, he’s the audience’s. It’s fitting that the prologue opens with a birth and closes with a death, introducing all parties involved— player or otherwise— to the circle of life. 

Thematically, the circle of life rears its head up a few times, to the point where it appears as both a usable and item you can equip near the end of the game. Life is so general a theme that it’s almost fruitless to analyze as a broad concept, but Dragon Quest V’s 26 years end up more or less covering a definable generation of life. It isn’t as if the circle of life is the defining theme of the story, either. Rather, Dragon Quest V is ultimately about the merits of individual heroism. 

The Hero, despite being referred to as such, isn’t the hero. That title instead belongs to his son, a character who only appears in the last act. This doesn’t stop the Hero from acting a hero, however. In typical DQ fashion, the protagonist will resolve virtually every town’s problems before the credits roll. Unlike II through IV, however, the Hero spends a good chunk of his journey as the only human in the party, much like the original Dragon Quest. While the player will always have a full party mid to late game, thanks to monster recruitment, the lack of spotlight given to human party members places more emphasis on the player’s individual actions. 

Long Live the Monster Party, Dragon Quest V (Super Famicom)

More importantly, this style of game design helps immersion quite a bit. Since the Hero is by default alone, it’s not unusual for players to put the main story on hold to hunt for monsters. Dragon Quest V is story-driven to the point of being the most linear Chunsoft developed DQ game, but it never suffers for it, entirely because it loads itself with so much optional content. Monsters will be recruited just by playing the game naturally, but the fact that players can stop the plot dead in its tracks to goof off is a big reason why DQV is such a charming game. 

There’s often an impulse to place strict emphasis on story in the RPG genre, but it’s for the best that Dragon Quest V resists here. The gameplay loop works because, like life, there’s time to stop and smell the roses. Should a player choose to map the overworld before they make any meaningful progress, they’re free to do so. Anyone tired of the main plot is welcome to sink hours upon hours in the genuinely addicting Casino. Those just eager to move on with the plot are welcome to comfortably power through as Dragon Quest V features the least amount of grinding of the Chunsoft games. 

Dragon Quest V is the rare RPG that caters itself to any play style, all without compromising its own design. All things considered, it’s almost unrealistically ambitious for 1992. A turn-based RPG that features fully-fledged monster recruitment, the passage of time over the course of 26 years, and marriage that results in two kids? That’s a lot for an early Super Famicom game, but Chunsoft managed to pull virtually everything off seamlessly. By the time ArtePiazza began developing the PS2 remake (and later DS remake,) there wasn’t much that was in need of fixing or updating. Perhaps even more impressive is the level of conceptual depth Dragon Quest V has in comparison with its Famicom brethren. 

The Legendary Hero is Born, Dragon Quest V (PlayStation 2)

Dragon Quest V is more sophisticated when it comes to game design. Its overworld alone puts virtually any other RPG overworld at the time to shame. Where most overworlds of the era featured maps that were fairly freeform and easy to travel once in late-game, Dragon Quest V keeps things complicated for as long as humanly possible. Like other entries in the series, the first half of the game sees the Hero traveling from continent to continent, each one serving as a pseudo stage of sorts before the plot moves on. Where Dragon Quest V differs especially is how it presents transportation. 

The flight based vehicle which allows players to freely traverse the overworld isn’t obtained until basically right before the end of the game. Until then, the audience has to make do with a Ship and Flying Carpet. While the last act makes it easier to move the Ship just about anywhere, the second act actually locks players into the center of the map, gating progression in a rather clever manner. 

As if that weren’t enough, the second “vehicle,” the Magic Carpet, can’t pass over rough terrain, meaning that players need to use the carpet strategically to traverse. The game itself also uses its world design in order to inject some rare moments of non-linearity. The only time Dragon Quest V doesn’t tell players where to go is when the map is at its most open, encouraging player-driven exploration. Slowly chipping away at the overworld over the course of an entire generation also lends greater weight to the idea that the Hero is globetrotting the entire world. It makes more sense to see the entire world over a course of 26 years than the average SNES RPG’s 26 hours. 

Innocence, Concept Art by Akira Toriyama

Monster recruitment is almost deceptively simple when it comes to gameplay depth. On a surface level, there’s not much to it. The last defeated monster randomly joins the party, and not every monster is recruitable. Once they’ve joined, however, each unique monster type has its own level caps, max stats, and spells. Not just that, different monsters learn different spells at different points. RNG heavy by design, monster recruitment naturally leads to each player having their own personalized party. Party members themselves might not be as individually customizable as in Dragon Quest III, but the depth of party composition at play more than makes up for it. 

Being able to make a new party on the fly thanks to the monster system keeps Dragon Quest V’s combat fresh throughout. Even without monster recruitment, dungeons are layered with optional areas and secrets, more so than previous entries. Not just that, dungeons are smarter designed in general, making use of the Super Famicom’s hardware in order to deepen the exploration that’s so inherent to Dragon Quest. Dragon Quest V hits that sweet spot between NES and SNES dungeon design where dungeons err on the side of short while also branching out in a way that keeps dungeons engaging without making players feel lost. 

The Hero ties the Knot, Dragon Quest V (Nintendo DS)

If there’s a single arc that best showcases Dragon Quest V’s qualities, it’s the wedding arc. Around midway through the game, the Hero, now an adult, finds himself tasked with completing a series of challenges in order to marry the daughter of a wealthy noble and get his hands on the Zenithian Shield. Narratively, that’s the only context given to the Hero’s mindset. From there, it’s up to the players to complete the challenges via gameplay and earn their marriage, but things aren’t so simple. The Hero’s childhood best friend enters the picture, complicating things romantically. 

At this point in the story, it would make sense for the Hero to romantically pursue his childhood best friend, Bianca, and that is indeed what the story seems to push for, but the fact of the matter remains that players don’t need to follow through with this. If audiences find themselves smitten with Nera, they can reject Bianca’s advancements. The story doesn’t suffer for it and Nera herself grows as a character, forging a relationship with the Hero through party chat. Not just that, Nera’s sister, Deborah, declares herself a last-minute marriage candidate mere seconds before the player is tasked with choosing a wife, adding another layer to the decision. 

The Final Battle, Dragon Quest V (Super Famicom)

In the grand scheme of things, the choice of wife doesn’t affect the greater narrative, but it does subtly influence the pathos of the story. After getting married, players are going to spend a good few hours with their wife, getting to know them and training alongside them (especially if Nera was chosen.) Party chat slowly develops the couple’s dynamic for all three wives, but each wife has her own arc. Bianca is the blandest of the three post-marriage, seeing most of her development before the wedding, but both Nera and Deborah grow extensively after marrying the player, and in their own, unique ways. 

The choice of the wife also affects the hair color of the Hero’s children, how they reflect on their mother, and how they address the player’s relationship with their wife. Dragon Quest V opts for smaller, personalized changes stemming from marriage, and that’s frankly for the best as it allows the story to proceed as is without any of the three wives causing a narrative domino effect by being chosen. This approach also means that players who take the time to get to know their wife through party chat will end up connecting even deeper emotionally with the inevitable tragedy that plagues the Hero’s marriage. 

Regardless of the monsters recruited, the wife married, or the optional content completed, More than one of the best RPGs ever made, Dragon Quest V is a title that anyone interested in the artistry of the medium needs to play. In general, the fourth generation was an incredibly important and creative time for game development, but Dragon Quest V is so forward-thinking— so ambitious— that it stands out in a vast sea of culturally important video games. Few games understand the importance of interactivity, immersion, or connecting emotionally with its audience as well as Dragon Quest V. An RPG about life in every sense, Dragon Quest V is a work of art. 

The End, Dragon Quest V (Mobile)

An avid-lover of all things Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, and The Legend of Zelda, Renan spends most of his time passionately raving about Dragon Ball and thinking about how to apply Marxist theory to whatever video game he's currently playing.

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Game Reviews

‘Super Mario 3D All-Stars’ Defines Three Incredible Generations

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the best bang for your buck compilation that the Super Mario Bros. franchise and the Nintendo Switch currently has to offer.

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Super Mario 3D All-Stars

Super Mario 3D All-Stars Review

Developer: Nintendo | Publisher: Nintendo | Genre: Platformer, Action | Platforms: Nintendo Switch | Reviewed On: Nintendo Switch


After nearly half a year of rumors, it was no surprise that Nintendo was going to jump up super high with another compilation title on their red plumber’s next special numbered anniversary. It’s absolutely undeniable to say that Super Mario 3D All-Stars is the best bang for your buck compilation that the Super Mario Bros. franchise and the Nintendo Switch currently have to offer. However, there are still a few pesky problems that persist through its leaking warp pipes. Nonetheless, what you are getting here is three updated masterclass retro classics that I probably don’t have to sell you on.

Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, and Super Mario Galaxy are not only some of the most critically acclaimed titles on their respective systems, but they’re also among the most influential games ever made. Having all these platformers on one modern console handheld hybrid system sounds certainly promising, but how do they hold up in comparison to other games out on the market today? Is this really the best way to play these three classics? Have they been obliterated by time? Of course they all still hold up exceptionally well, but there are some upsetting answers to be found. Veterans and newcomers of Mario’s three-dimensional adventures will be rather pleased though by what is being offered in Super Mario 3D All-Stars.

3D All-Stars is a great best-hits package that can sometimes skimp out on features and upgrades, but it’s simply exceptional nonetheless.

Taking it all the way back to the past, 1996’s Super Mario 64 still holds a candle to many of today’s modern platformers as it flaunts its rebellious spirit through open environments and selective mission paths. The Nintendo 64’s shining star is just as good as you’ve heard or remember it to be. Despite some of its troublesome camera rotation and weird analog movement, the first three-dimensional Super Mario title still lives up to that high standard you would expect from a Nintendo release. Even after all these years, Super Mario 64 still comes out on top as the king of its generation.

There are plenty of cleaned-up trimmings, including new textures and user interface icons sprinkled here and there that benefit the original game’s noticeably aging areas throughout it’s latest rerelease. In comparison to its bundled successors, however, Super Mario 64 received the short end of the enhanced stick. While I certainly won’t say that Super Mario 64 was utterly cheated out on receiving the gleaming treatment it deserves, in comparison to something like Rare’s remasters of Banjo-Kazooie and Banjo-Tooie, Bethesda’s recent DOOM 64 port, or even just the other games within 3D All-Stars for that matter, Nintendo’s fifth-generation golden goose has disappointingly been adapted to Switch, to say the least.

Not only is the game not in widescreen like the other titles, but the framerate is still capped at 30 frames per second. Nintendo has created an authentic experience for those looking for the same adventure players witnessed when this groundbreaking masterpiece initially hit the public, but that does not mean these features could not have been optional. Considering Super Mario Galaxy is running at 1080p, sixty frames per second, surely Nintendo could have gotten the more primitive Nintendo 64 title up to that pristine quality.

Revisiting 2002’s summer vacation to Isle Delfino was a tear-worthy experience for me that one could say was fludding with nostalgia. I am not going to lie, Super Mario Sunshine was one of the very first console games I ever owned and it is still one of, if not my all-time favorite titles out there. However, ignoring my deep-rooted connection with the GameCube, objectively speaking Sunshine may perhaps be the Mario game that benefits the most from this compilation. Not only does the game look fantastic in widescreen format and high definition like the other games, but that extra field of view increases Delfino’s sense of scale and vision. It is truly incredible how well some of Nintendo’s earliest library of sixth-generation titles hold up visually despite being almost twenty years old.

The biggest concern longtime fans of Super Mario Sunshine will have going into this collection is how the control scheme would function. As someone who has played through the GameCube release dozens of times, I can happily confirm that Nintendo has done a fine job porting the game over to Switch. For those who are unaware, Sunshine originally allowed you to dictate the amount of water pressure F.L.U.D.D. would power out depending on how far you held the right trigger in. Due to the Switch’s lack of back analog triggers, replicating the original game’s experience was going to be difficult from the get-go. Nintendo’s solution was to make the character operate entirely on full power mode. This may sound like a major change, but in reality, the old control scheme was merely a feature that was fun to mess around with rather than a game-changing aspect. Outside of the late game’s irritating casino pachislot before the King Boo boss fight, there is no other area affected by the alteration.

While Nintendo’s newest GameCube emulation is surely impressive, it may not be entirely flawless for every perfectionist’s liking. Sunshine does indeed contain some minor faults that can likely be fixed in a future patch if Nintendo ever so chooses to release one. There are two notable quirks that will bother longtime fans although it should be mentioned that these are incredibly nitpicky changes in the grand scheme of things. For one, I noticed that a specific sound effect heard multiple times before timed missions had been changed to an oddly annoying censored beep- way to make El Piantissimo and Blooper racing bother more newcomers. Secondly, during some of the Fluddless missions focused on platforming, textured blocks that players are not supposed to see can appear that indicate an object’s trajectory.

Speaking of trajectories, its time to talk about the outer space adventure veterans probably have the most questions about. To bring this library to a close, we have 2007’s astronomical hit Super Mario Galaxy– the most critically praised game in this entire package, with the highest Metacritic and OpenCritic scores out of these three monoliths. Super Mario Galaxy is definitely the closest game to hit the modern standard of Mario’s latest globe-trotting adventures. When it comes to gorgeously designed landscapes and compact areas to explore, there are times where Galaxy could quite honestly stand toe to toe with Super Mario Odyssey from a distance. On top of this, we have what is arguably the most heartfelt Mario story to date as its beautifully constructed narrative never pulls any punches with its wholesome story entirely told through chapters of short text and subcontext.

Galaxy heavily utilized the Wii remote and nunchuck, but Nintendo is offering players with quite a few ways to now enjoy the title. Both Pro-Controller and Joy-Con proclaimers can breath easy because Galaxy supports both formats. While they may not be as pinpoint accurate as they previously were, the latest control schemes are exceptional. When playing with either of these controller options, you will have to utilize either motion or gyro to move the Luma cursor used to collect star bits, stop enemies, or solve various puzzles. Since the Switch lacks the intricately designed motion controls of the Wii, the developers have smartly mapped the right trigger to reset the cursor to the center of the screen.

The only aspect of Super Mario Galaxy that can often become problematic is when the game is being played in handheld mode, but this really only applies to specific sections of the game. In regards to on the go action, the game’s motion controls have been optimized for the touch screen, however, anyone who has played the Wii release can probably tell why this would not always work efficiently. When it comes to specifically collecting star bits, Galaxy can be a nightmare to try and multitask as you have to either pull your hand away from moving the left stick or inputting basic action commands like jumping. Menus and motion puzzles work great in handheld mode and can even be easier to play at times, but it is odd that the docked and tabletop control schemes can not be used with attached Joy-Cons.

Outside of the core three titles, Nintendo has opted out of including any special modes or features, unlike some of their various other notable anniversary titles such as Kirby’s Dream Collection or even the original Super Mario All-Stars rerelease on Wii. Without the additional extra content that properly commemorates the history of the Super Mario Bros. series, this anniversary can feel dishearteningly shallow as it looks more like a hangout than a massive birthday on the surface. Aside from including each game’s incredible soundtracks that double down as a way to always mix up your main menu experience, there are no art pages, interviews, design documents, or anything significant to glance at in this collection when it comes to additional trincites to awe at.

At the bare minimum, Nintendo could have at least included each title’s original manual for players to browse through, but even that is absent here. Even Super Mario Maker’s physical release came with a special booklet for fans to peruse five years ago. The games are obviously what matters most, but for something made to celebrate such a noteworthy milestone, audiences will definitely be expecting more from a character as iconic as Mario. The Super Mario Bros. franchise has such a fascinating history with a literal ocean of trivia and art worth exploring that you can find across several official artbooks, social media platform pages, and wikis. It is truly a shame that Nintendo did not go the extra mile to include any of this when commemorating 35 years of their mascot, but once again, the games at the spotlight are what truly matters most.

Despite its minor emulation issues and missing opportunities, 3D All-Stars manages to defy three incredible generations in one worthwhile package.

With its outstanding lineup of three masterclass generation-defining titles, Super Mario 3D All-Stars exceeds in a value rightfully way above its retail price tag as it bundles together three incredible journies into one package. Whether it is your first time getting to know Mario’s fantastical world or you are coming back to relive your childhood memories, this is a special title that offers some of the finest platforming adventures the red plumber has embarked on. Outside of the fact that it is literally a limited-time release, Nintendo’s latest anniversary best-hits extravaganza is well worth running out to purchase. If you have not played Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, or Super Mario Galaxy, you owe it to yourself to experience every one of these games.

Super Mario 3D All-Stars is indeed lacking in bonus content to make this truly feel like a shebang worth celebrating, but its three games keep the entire party from ever being less than exceptional. All three games included still remain tremendously entertaining as they prove to excel upon the passage of time. Perhaps it is not the grand superstar it could have potentially been, but it will put a huge smile on any veteran or newcomer’s face as they explore Peach’s castle grounds, take on a thwarted island vacation, or skyrocket into the cosmos that have brought decades of enjoyment to audiences of all ages. Collect your coins and get it while you can or begin plotting a Bowser-like scheme to score a copy in the distant future.

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PAX Online: ‘Unpacking’ and ‘Infernax’

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game the calm and relaxing Unpacking and the not-so calm and relaxing Infernax.

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Unpacking and Infernax

Our PAX Online coverage continues with a game that takes a hated activity and somehow makes it relaxing and another game that will leave you clenching your buttocks.

Unpacking

Unpacking game

Platforms: PC
Release: 2021

As someone who is coming fresh off of moving just a little over a month ago, you couldn’t have blamed me for being a little skeptical going into what was dubbed a “zen puzzle” game based on the final stretch of the process. Unpacking is just that, though. It’s a calming, almost therapeutic exercise that happened to serve as a wonderful way for me to unwind at the end of a day.

Unpacking is exactly what it says on the tin. There are no scores, no timers, no leaderboards, just you, and a few boxes with various items in them that need to be placed somewhere. The demo starts with a single bedroom in 1997. There’s nothing in the game that tells you where something should go, only your own taste and intuition; a locked diary would probably go in a desk-drawer while a soccer trophy would probably be displayed on a shelf.

As I slowly unearthed items one-by-one, I gradually got a feel for what the room’s new inhabitant was most likely like. The endless supply of stuffed animals implied someone of younger age while the numerous art supplies indicated someone inclined to right brain thinking. It’s rather engaging to learn about this person’s life purely by their belongings.

Every item taken out was like a delightful surprise and would sometimes even make me feel a little sentimental such as when I took out a small device that was clearly a Tamagotchi. More importantly, Unpacking nails that sinking feeling of when you feel like you’ve used all your available space but still have boxes left. Reaching the point of just throwing stuff wherever it fits is such an immediately relatable feeling that I was almost offended. And that was only for a single bedroom!

Unpacking game

The demo’s second stage was a little more involved with a bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen in the year of 2004. The hilarious moments of finding a boot in your kitchenware box or a bra with your toiletries also felt like a call-out to my own hodge-podge packing methods. It’s something I can’t help but let out an exasperated chuckle at.

It was also neat to see how this person has grown since their earlier abode. Much fewer stuffed animals but more art supplies and a brand new computer imply this character is maybe entering the working adult world. I’ve never actually seen this character, but I can’t help but feel a connection to them already, and that was only after two moves. The full game will have eight total moves to follow them through and I am genuinely curious to see how our nameless and faceless protagonist grows throughout them.

Now if only unpacking in real life could be this soothing.

Infernax

Infernax

Platforms: PC
Release: TBA

Some players may recognize Berzerk Studio for their excellent 2018 bullet-hell, rhythm game Just Shapes & Beats. Coming hot of the heels of that hit they immediately pivoted in the new direction with Infernax, a delightfully edgy 8-bit adventure platformer that takes cues from old-school Castlevania titles.

Our hero returns to his land after a successful crusade only to find it overrun by horrible monstrosities in every which direction. With nothing but mace in hand, he sets out on a quest anew to rid the land of the undead filth. Immediately apparent upon starting is just how tightly the game controls; anyone fond of earlier NES titles will feel right at home with Infernax. I quickly got a handle on my exact attack reach down to the pixel and began mowing down the zombies in front of me. It emphasized how much joy a game is possible of eliciting from simply a jump and attack button.

Getting to that proficiency is important too because the game doesn’t waste any time in taking off the training wheels! Even the base enemies shaved off half my HP if I got careless and that difficulty ramped up at a rapid rate as new enemy types were introduced at a decent clip such as flying evil eyes and jumping rodents. Not only do these foes burst into tasty experience points and gold to be spent on upgrades, but also into extremely satisfying fountains of blood.

Infernax isn’t particularly shy about turning up the gore factor, but it’s still impressive by just how creative they get with it using simple pixel art. Nowhere is this more apparent than when you are killed. Every single enemy type has a unique kill animation when they deal the final blow to our hero. From the chump ass pillbugs to the big bad bosses, all of them mutilate you in a different way and it’s honestly morbidly mesmerizing to witness. It made me want to suicide against every enemy I came across just so I could see what creative way they took my life.

Infernax

Depending on your playstyle you might not want to do this, though, as Infernax features two different ways to respawn when you die. Hardcore respawn sends you all the way back to your last save point, just like in those classic NES titles. Casual respawn lets you restart right where you left off with no loss in progress, but choosing to do so locks you out from Hardcore the rest of the game. It’s a sort of mark of shame that I was glad to wear during the demo after I came up against the final boss and promptly got my ass handed to me. It sounds a little cheeky on paper but is actually very consistent with the game’s overtly edgy tone.

Infernax feels like a game that was lost to time during the NES era and is just now being rediscovered. Those looking for for a game that harkens back to the simplicity of the olden days need not look any further.

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Games

Indie Games Spotlight – Going Full Circle

We’re featuring five exciting indie games in our latest spotlight, including the internship roguelike Going Under and the cozy puzzles of Lonesome Village.

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Journey of the Broken Circle

Indie Games Spotlight is Goomba Stomp’s biweekly column where we highlight some of the most exciting new and upcoming independent games. Summer may have come to a close, but that hasn’t stopped big announcements from rolling in. With events like PAX Online and the recent PlayStation 5 Showcase flooding the web with announcements, trailers, and gameplay footage, there’s been a constant deluge of news to keep up with. With so much coming on the horizon, we’re spotlighting five exciting indies that you’ll be able to play sooner rather than later. Whether you’re in the mood for a brutally addictive action game or a cozy adventure and social sim, there’s bound to be a game that speaks to you in this spotlight.

Moving Up Professionally in Going Under

Work is its own payment in Going Under. In this action game from developer Aggro Crab, you’re put in the shoes of an unpaid intern who must explore the endless ruins of failed tech startups while fighting off the monsters that spawn within them. It’s hard work to do without a single paycheck—but hey, at least you’re gaining valuable experience!

As a former unpaid intern myself, the writing in Going Under certainly resonates with me and it’s sure to strike a chord with anyone who’s ever felt underappreciated or overworked. Its vibrant and colorful 3D graphics, as well as its satirical story, only make it all the more enticing. It really should offer a great working experience when it hits all consoles and PC via Steam on September 24.

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Fill in the Gaps in Journey of the Broken Circle

Something’s missing in Journey of the Broken Circle. Like its name would suggest, this puzzle platformer follows a Pacman-like circle with a hole to fill. It wanders through a world that is whimsical and existential at once, searching for a companion to fill its gaps. As the circle rolls through ethereal environments, it encounters different shapes to use that allow for new gameplay mechanics.

Journey of the Broken Circle might be about an abstract shape, but in its quest to become whole, it strives to capture the human experience. It promises to be an intimate experience that clocks in at about five hours to complete. If you’re interested in getting this ball rolling, it’s already available now on Switch and Steam.

Prepare to Get GORSD

There’s a delicate balance between unsettling the player without being outright scary. GORSD treads the line here as a one-hit-kill shooter that stars humans encased in the skins of octopuses, dragons with human faces, and nightmarish environments. Something feels off about GORSD, but that’s exactly what makes it so interesting.

Brought to life with detailed pixel art, GORSD supports up to four players who can face off in chaotic matches in varied arenas. It also features a full-fledged single-player campaign with a vast overworld with dozens of unique stages. Its concept is inspired by its developers’ native Southeast Asian cultures, making for a unique gameplay and aesthetic experience. If you’re ready to dive in and see it for yourself, it’s available now on all consoles and PC via Steam.

Get Ready For a Foregone Conclusion

Saying Foregone is a 2D Dark Souls would be cliché, but accurate nonetheless. It’s a hardcore action game where you’ll fight against insurmountable odds to prevent monsters from overrunning the world. It has a brutally addictive gameplay loop—its difficulty may be excruciating, but because it offers a wide assortment of abilities to leverage, it’s immensely euphoric once you overcome the challenges before you.

This beautiful 3D/pixelated hybrid action game has been available on PC in early access since February, but at long last, it’s seeing its full console release in October. It’s been a promising title ever since its pre-release days, and now that it’s finally seeing its complete iteration, there’s never been a better time to dive in and give it a shot. It’s hitting all platforms on October 5, so there’s not long to wait!

Finding Good Company in a Lonesome Village

Mix Zelda with Animal Crossing and you might get something like Lonesome Village. This newly-revealed puzzle adventure game features Zelda-like adventure in a hand-drawn world populated by animal characters. Players control a wandering coyote who stumbles upon a strange village and decides to investigate its mysterious happenings by interacting with villagers, solving puzzles, and exploring its dungeons.

It’s more than a simple adventure game. In addition to puzzle-solving, you’ll interact with Lonesome Village’s eclectic cast of characters to forge relationships and unravel brooding mysteries. It’s showing plenty of potential with its cozy gameplay loop, and if you want to give it a shot, check out its official demo from its Kickstarter page! It’s already been fully funded in less than 24 hours, but if you want to help the developers out even further, consider contributing to their campaign.

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