Cast of the Seven Godsends
Developed By: Raven Travel Studios
Published By: Merge Games
Category: Action, Arcade, Platformer
Release Date: 4.18.18
Growing up in the 16-bit era, the default game template was the action platformer. Yeah, we had some good to great RPGs and racers and whatnot, but it felt like every other game was a sidescrolling platformer. Cast of the Seven Godsends for the Nintendo Switch is a love letter to old platformers like Golden Axe and Altered Beast, and it sticks the landing and provides some nice updates in fun ways.
Cast of the Seven Godsends has players assume the role of Kandar, a king who dies in the first ten seconds of the game. The demons who killed him kidnap his son to use in a ritual to resurrect their banished emperor. Not a great start, but it gets better. Seven gods, trapped in another realm and unable to help directly, resurrect Kandar and gift him seven armors to use in his plight against the demons. Then he goes HAM on some demons for seven levels of intense platforming action.
The story is fairly standard and not especially deep, but by old-school action platformer standards it’s basically Shakespeare. The cutscenes are fairly short, and the developers even took the time to make sure their dialogue seemed poorly translated. But they didn’t do it haphazardly or without purpose; it truly feels like an authentically amateur translation by someone who mostly understands English, but not totally. Attention to these kind of small details that stoke the fires of nostalgia are part of what makes this game so fun to play.
As a tribute to another age, Cast of the Seven Godsends doesn’t really break many of the rules of the platformer. You can run, jump, attack, and it has its special gimmick in the form of the ability to summon one of the seven titular godsends, armors forged by the gods to defeat the demons invading the kingdom. The armors add some extra hit points so you can take some more damage before dying and come with their own special weapons, themed to the element of the armor. Along the way, Kandar can grab different weapons which alter his attacks in interesting ways. He starts off with a simple throwing knife, but he can find a sword, throwing axes, and throwing maces; so a lot of throwing implements, mostly, except for the sword. The sword switches out range for power, but sacrificing the range is almost never worth it throughout the game. If you see a sword, don’t grab it.
Playing through the game also unlocks some achievements as you accomplish certain tasks and if there’s one thing the Switch needs, it’s a Virtual Console, but we’re not getting one. If there’s a second thing the Switch needs, though, it’s a cloud save feature, which we are getting soon. But if there’s a third thing the Switch needs, it’s some of those sweet, sweet cheevos. I don’t know why, but when an achievement notification pops up, I feel like I just conquered the world. Cast of the Seven Godsends knows how to manipulate my Pavlovian responses, and I thank it for that.
The game is a little too slick to be a true throwback to the 16-bit era. The graphics aren’t pixelated, but rather have a smooth, almost hand-drawn look to them. It’s a nice-looking game with a variety of settings. By the end of the first level you’ve been through a dungeon, a forest, and a flaming mountaintop. The visuals are always changing up, and each of the seven levels looks fresh and sharp; in fact the backgrounds are more detailed than the characters most of the time. There’s nothing wrong with the character models, really, but some of them are a little underwhelming to look at. I guess that’s fine for mob enemies; the bosses and Kandar always look like the most interesting things on the screen, which I suppose is for the best.
The music is intrepid and fast-paced, befitting the scale of the adventure that the developers intended. It sets a nice pace for the adventure and different songs heighten the drama of the game’s atmosphere. Everything sounds like it would fit right in on a Sega Genesis or SNES without missing a beat. It’s a nostalgia bomb for the ears, and I am all for it.
Cast of the Seven Godsends has touch or motion controls to worry about, so it plays about as well undocked as it does docked. I kind of preferred it as a handheld, as the Switch’s speakers kind of give the game a more Gameboy Advance kind of sound, which added a lot to the old-school feel. The graphics also looked a little better to me when they were compressed onto the smaller screen, but I guess that’s a judgement call.
TL;DR: Fun old-school style platformer that trades heavily in nostalgia for the games that inspired it.
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