"Nintendo may be ignoring our cries of anguish, but Matt White is carrying the flag down a very dark and treacherous path. I suppose I'll follow him into the abyss..."
It feels like there's a part of me that's missing. A yearning, nay, an aching need for a game in the style of Super Metroid. We were all hoping and praying that Nintendo would come down from on high and deliver to us a new 2D side-scroller to finally rival the 1994 classic. Alas, our pleas have gone unanswered, which is why several of us at RPGFan are very excited for Matt White's tribute to the Super Nintendo masterpiece (with a little Souls thrown in for good measure).
Ghost Song begins with a mysterious figure waking up on an unknown planet. It's not even clear if the main character is human based on the early beta test, but the lack of any real characterization or personality in the protagonist helps to create a connection with my in-game avatar. I would probably be a bit flummoxed if I woke up on an alien world, after all. Exploration beyond the wreckage of your star cruiser leads to two distinct areas; one that feels fairly challenging and another yielding almost certain death. It's at this point that White's other
main influence rears its nightmarish head, as he took inspiration from Dark Souls when it comes to challenge and storytelling. Early enemies can send you back to the startup screen in just a few hits, and some of the larger monstrosities feel like I would be better fighting them another day. Then again, advancing through these early trials may lead to greater rewards. It's that sense of "I'm sure I can beat this" that gives the Souls game their character, and Ghost Song already has that feeling in spades (even if I may need to level up my character a bit in order to finally fell the cursed beasts lurking in the dark). The game also features its own version of the Crestfallen Warrior from Demon's Souls and Dark Souls. Another adventurer warned me to avoid some particularly nasty enemies and, seeing his wounds and general state, I was obliged to acquiesce to his request.
The strong sense of isolation and exploration are perhaps the most appealing aspects of Ghost Song for me right now, having just replayed the Resident Evil HD Remaster last week. I love it when video game environments have character, danger, and feel handcrafted with a serious feeling of "place." Footholds and pathways initially out of reach become a new area of discovery after acquiring abilities and enhancements. The game, admittedly, feels fairly stiff at the beginning, but an early dash maneuver grants a great deal of additional traversal (and potential peril). This upgrade comes at a high cost, however, as it must be absorbed from a less than fortunate fellow adventurer. The story isn't explaining itself in any traditional way just yet, but things seem far more dark and foreboding than I initially anticipated.
Ghost Song is still a long way off, with an expected release date set for late in 2015. The beta build shows a great deal of promise, but it's hard to say exactly how this homage will turn out. Movement takes a bit of getting used to, and some of the puzzles verge on La-Mulana or Castlevania 2 levels of cryptic. Still, the atmosphere and strong sense of progression are more than enough to keep me interested. Mr. White is also planning on including an upgradeable pet in the vein of Phantasy Star Online's mags and over half of the world is "optional." Nintendo may be ignoring our cries of anguish, but Matt White is carrying the flag down a very dark and treacherous path. I suppose I'll follow him into the abyss...