SuperEpic: The Entertainment War – Nintendo Switch
Developed By: Undercoders
Published By: Numskull Games
Release Date: December 12, 2019
The Oscars’ Honorary Award is given to those who have contributed greatly to the movie industry, however gaming’s equivalent awards ceremony The Game Awards is currently missing this category. Whenever it does appear, there should be an award given to the numerous names at Nintendo involved in Metroid’s creation and Koji Igarashi, director of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, for their role in defining the elements of the metroidvania genre.
Super Metroid and Castlevania: SotN were released in the 1990s and are seen as two of the most significant titles in establishing the genre. They were largely overlooked at the time, particularly SotN which arrived when 3D gaming was superseding 2D in the mainstream. Their popularity has grown over time and the popularity of metroidvanias has exploded in the last decade, with many of the best in the genre available on Nintendo Switch. So when a new metroidvania arrives there is serious competition to stand out from the pack.
SuperEpic: The Entertainment War is a new metroidvania from Catalan developers Undercoders and British publisher Numskull Games. Undercoders have a diverse back catalogue on consoles with Nintendo DSi puzzle game Battle of the Elements in 2011 and the more recent Conga Master Party! In 2017 for Switch. But with SuperEpic they clearly have a view on the more recent trends in gaming that they want to be heard. Your protagonists are a raccoon and llama who have teamed up to take down Regnantcorp, a mega video game developer who are brainwashing people with their addictive, free to play games. Regnantcorp are now the only show in town and their monopoly over gaming has all but wiped out traditional pay to play video games. As you might expect, this contains no microtransactions. This is very much a traditional 16 bit style adventure that wears its heart on its sleeve.
The pixel art style takes you back to 1994, with scrolling parallax backgrounds and detailed character sprites. Cutscenes have a cool bold visual style with humourous and satirical dialogue from a charming cast of characters. During your adventure you explore the Regnantcorp headquarters from the offices on street level, down to the server rooms underground and interestingly, in one of many nods made throughout to pop culture, a Castlevania themed area. SuperEpic has some mostly great chip tunes including the music themes for the aforementioned Castlevania and server rooms sections, although one or two music themes may grate for some. Each area spralls in all directions, made up of multiple rooms, each littered with respawning enemies which can be taken down with your choice of 3 different weapon types which are effectively light, medium and heavy attacks. When you defeat enemies they drop money which can be used to buy better weapons, items or defence, stamina and rage stat buffs. You can also buy new special moves using gems which are hidden throughout each area. You also will every so often be imbued with new abilities, some as part of the story, or others which are found hidden away.
Some areas will be inaccessible initially while others are accessible but are prohibitive to venturing too far. Similar to Zelda: BotW, there are areas which aren’t off limits but you will get your ass handed to you if you’ve arrived in an area a little too soon in the adventure. At the end of each area there is a boss to overcome which come in a range of shapes and sizes from your size to screen filling, but most won’t provide too stern a challenge so long as you have the latest weapons and armour. Although one of the most challenging boss battles provides quite a challenge by taking you to another place. However in true metroidvania style, there are reasons to bring you back to previously cleared areas to access inaccessible sections.
Traversal can be a slog which may or may not be by design. There is an elevator in each area which allows you to fast travel between each area, however these are few and far between. Pleasingly, SuperEpic features some of the shortest load times on Switch, with going from room to room instantaneous and area to area only taking a few seconds. Traversing from one place to another is an opportunity to grind so you can earn gold to help you to improve your attack and defence, but a few more elevators would have been welcome to give you the choice. So crucially enemy combat is quite enjoyable. It can be quite basic if you choose only to use your main 3 weapons with the opportunity to chain combos together, but you can also use purchased special moves which are a bit more complicated to pull off, including a nice hadoken homage. Although some of the special moves can be tricky if using the joy-con d-pad or analogue sticks.
You shouldn’t expect to see the game over screen too often so long as you don’t ever venture too far without visiting one of the toilets dotted throughout which double as save points. However if you do die, you get the option to be revived where you fell in exchange for half of your money, but if you die again you will be sent back to your previous save point.
Throughout there are ATM kiosks with a QR code which you can scan with your smartphone to play a coin mining game. You can mine ‘pig coins’ which can be used to spend on prepaid cards or upgrades to your mining ability. Much like many of the F2P games SuperEpic satirises, there is an enforced time limit forcing you to wait for your coins to be mined. It is purposely annoying to demonstrate what Undercoders is railing against, and is a quirky extra from the developer which can be avoided altogether if you choose.
There may be times during your adventure where you’re not quite sure where to go next, particularly if you’ve put the game down for a bit and you can’t remember where you planned to go next. The world of SuperEpic is large and sprawling and it can be a drag having to travel for a while and find dead ends. A recap or reminder would have been a welcome addition which I’m sure could be patched in as part of a future update.
For both fans and newcomers to the genre, this is well worth picking up. It is perfect on Switch’s handheld screen with tunes worth plugging in the headphones for and pixel art that transports you back to the 1990s. The satirical story may appear lighthearted, but at its core you can see Undercoders are sending out a message that they want to be heard: that they are lovers and creators of games that provide an enjoyable player experience available to all who choose to pick up and play, and not behind paywalls. Despite a couple rough edges, this is a worthy addition to the bulging metroidvania software catalogue on Switch.