Developed By: Storybird
Published By: PQube
Category: Adventure, Action, Role-Playing, Platformer
Release Date: 04.24.19
Some people think you have to subscribe to Nintendo Switch Online to play classic NES games on their Switch. Technically, they are correct. Luckily, however, we live in a golden era of gaming, where everything from AAA open-world blockbusters to, say, an indie retro metroidvania with a perfect NES aesthetic comes out every other week. Aggelos for the Nintendo Switch is such a throwback. It combines well-balanced platforming action and exploration with a fantastic 8-bit visual style to create the greatest NES experience that never was.
Ill Lumen Nation
Aggelos lives a peaceful life in his cabin in the kingdom of Lumen. One day, he feels drawn towards the woods to the west of his house, where he comes across a princess on the run from a monster. After dealing with the monster and making his way to the castle, Aggelos is tasked with gathering the four elements to defeat the evil dawning across the world. So… he does. It’s a simple, classic story, told without pretension or unnecessary frills. The writing didn’t blow me away, but it was a faithful recreation of the depth and style of classic NES games. The sense of nostalgia evoked by the game – both in its story and graphics – is one of its most compelling aspects.
8-Bit Big Hit
On the game’s Nintendo eShop page, Aggelos is described as a 16-bit throwback. Honestly, I don’t see it; Aggelos looks straight off the NES, as I stated in the intro. I don’t view this is a downgrade or insult in any way; the game looks amazing, despite the limitations of the 8-bit aesthetic. Character sprites are colorful and wonderfully detailed. Backgrounds are vibrant, atmospheric, and well-designed for platforming. The music is a fantastic blast from the past, too. The 8-Bit aesthetic carries over to the music, and delivers a wonderful chiptune soundtrack that adds to the game’s sense of adventure and wonder. Overall, the game’s art direction takes me back to the days when I sat too close to the TV playing the family NES – minus wrestling my brother for the controller.
You’ve seen Aggelos’s brand of action before. For movement, you can run, jump, and duck. For actions, you can attack, and, after getting a magic ring (more in a minute), cast up to four spells. The magic is performed in kind of a combo fashion; each spell is activated by pressing its corresponding d-pad direction in conjunction with the magic button. Attacking is just a basic sword swing, no combos or anything. So, while it’s not altogether original, the controls are well-designed and incredibly responsive. I can’t recall a single time during the game where I could have sworn I pressed a button and the game didn’t seem to recognize the input. I mean, I understand that most of the time when I feel that way it’s just because I suck at the game, but Aggelos’s gameplay stuck out as exceptionally smooth.
The kingdom of Lumen is remarkably large and diverse. There are four towns to visit, as well as four elemental temples, a final boss dungeon, and several different areas connecting them. You’ll visit everything from an underwater temple to a dragon’s nest, and all kinds of fantastic fantasy settings in between. The platforming and exploration is well-designed; the terrain provides several clues when there is something further to explore, giving players plenty of reason to return to previous areas when new skills have been unlocked. More importantly, exploration is fun and rewarding. Checking out a previously inaccessible area always provides you with a worthy treasure, from an extra health heart to a boatload of gems.
The RPG elements of Aggelos are fairly limited, but they are present. Defeating enemies rewards you with experience points, which in turn helps you gain levels. Leveling up increases your attack and defense, but not your health. Health can only be gained by collecting heart containers, which are scattered in chests around the world as well as dropped by bosses. You can also purchase new equipment in shops found in towns or somewhat randomly in the world. You can buy weapons and armor to further increase your attack and defense, respectively, as well as usable items like potions and herbs to replenish your health and magic charges. You start out with three charges, which can be recharged either by using a potion or attacking an enemy. You can increase your number of charges by buying them in shops or finding them by exploring the world. Magic rings are found in the temples, and there are four in total, each pertaining to the element associated with the temple. For example, the water element ring allows you to surround yourself with a bubble that gives you an unlimited jump while underwater. Its secondary ability lets you disperse the bubble, causing damage over a wide area.
Aggelos has no touch or motion controls, which makes sense, because the NES didn’t have them either. Well, I guess it has the light gun which is kind of like a motion controlled game, but that’s beside the point. Aggelos doesn’t have any shooting elements so that doesn’t really apply here anyway. The game played about as well as on my TV as it did in the Switch’s undocked mode, so I don’t really have any recommendation there. Playing it undocked did bring back memories of playing my Game Boy Color way back when, so it has that going for it. I do generally prefer using my Pro controller for action games, but honestly I didn’t find using it any smoother than using the Joycon.
TL;DR: Amazingly fun metroidvania fueled as much by great gameplay and game design as nostalgia for the NES era.