Created and developed by Raven Travel studios, Cast of the Seven Godsends is a retro styled love letter to the platform action games of the 80’s and 90’s, this game has a very Capcom vibe to it with the gameplay and storyline being reminiscent of the games in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series of games. Release on May 3rd 2018 on the Nintendo eShop, we received a digital code courtesy of Merge Games, I have been excited about this title since it was announced for the PlayStation 4 and the Xbox One, with many thanks to the publisher Merge Games i am pleased to bring you my thoughts on this game for the Nintendo Switch.
The story of Crest of the Seven Godsends is very similar to the storylines of most run and gun games of the old school arcade days, you play as King Kandar the ruler of the kingdom of Darcea and your new-born son has been kidnapped by the evil Emperor Zaraaima, during this kidnapping Kandar was slain and his body was sealed in the ruins deep into the forest of Darcea, now the seven Gods of the realm have resurrected Kandar, granting him their power by allowing him to use their magic to empower his armour and cast powerful spells to vanquish the monsters and demons who would seek to prevent the King from rescuing his son.
The land of Darcea is covered in a variety of terrain including dense forest, snow covered mountains, mist covered swamps/marshes and flaming volcanoes. As you traverse these dangerous and treacherous environments you will encounter demons and monsters that are native to that area ranging from fire imps to abominable snowmen. As you take on the quest to vanquish the evil Emperor you will come across terrible boss monsters like a towering Magma Beast and an armoured Minotaur. During the loading of each level you see a map of the world and it is bright vibrant and gives a feeling of nostalgia reminding me of world maps from games like Actraiser and Dai Makai Mura.
The graphics and sound are simply fantastic with the soundtrack being orchestrated and the games graphics/sprites being rendered smoothly, the backgrounds are well detailed and all the character sprites look clean and well designed, they do have a rather flat paper doll look to them which isn’t unappealing but a refreshing change from the pixel art that is seen in most independent game releases. There is also two resolution settings which change the visible playfield of the game the two settings are 720p which is best for playing on handheld/smaller screens and 1080p which is ideal for playing the game on a large screen.
I have one issue with the games graphical style and that is that some of the platforms are difficult to distinguish from backgrounds, as well as some of the enemy attacks and death traps being camouflaged by the games colour pallet. There is also many errors is the writing which gave an Engrish feel, upon investigation I discovered that the developers are based in Italy so that explained the errors in the scripting but it was still humorous to see during my time playing the game.
The gameplay is reminiscent of the classic run and gun games from the early days of arcades like Black Tiger and Contra, there is constant action on screen which can make the game hectic and an adrenaline trip as you try your best to battle the evils while dodging their attacks. You start each life with no armour and two hit points, armour can be collected regularly throughout the stage hidden inside a treasure capsule, the armour grants one additional hit point and will refill any damage taken before picking up the armour.
Once the player has the base armour a gem will appear in one of the treasure capsules, this gem is called a Godsend and allows the player to activate one of the seven available magical power ups which transforms their armour by magic and grants a special attack that is activated by charging a bar that is filled by holding the attack button. There are 5 weapons that can be combined with the magical power ups for a total of 35 combinations, some of the attacks are more effective when battling enemies of an opposing element, for example when fighting a fire monster the ice attacks will deal more damage.
The game consists of seven stages separated into two or more sub stages with a mid-boss and an end of stage boss to fight in each stage providing a challenge throughout the each stage not allowing the player to rest during any stage in the game, there are four difficulty levels allowing an increasing challenge, so far I have only played the game on the easy and normal difficulty which I will increase upon completion of the game as I find the ability to increase a challenge like this very enticing as I enjoy these kinds of games.
The controls are smooth and consistent and they don’t feel slippery or floaty while playing with a high level of precision allowing pixel perfect jumps to be completed with little issue, the only problems I had with the controls while playing were when I was playing the game at 1080p mode as I found it difficult to judge the distance and depth of the jumps as the sprites were too small for me, and during the sections with ice or environmental effects like wind causing me to fall off edges or miss jumps.
The game feels very trial and error much like the games it is inspired by, but this isn’t a problem since it is much more rewarding when you complete a section of the game that you have had problems getting past, learning the sections that are difficult makes it a refreshing challenge when the difficulty is increased and you see new enemies and death traps in these sections increasing tension and the panic that may occur if you are reduced to a single hit point.
The last thing about the game is that there is unlockables for completing various requirements ranging from beating the stages of the game to completing the entire game at the highest difficulty with specific power ups. These secrets are a welcome addition and a great reason to come back and play the game to get the many unlockables.
All in all this is a great game and an enjoyable challenge I would highly recommend and if you have an arcade stick like I do it’s a lot of fun giving a greater feeling of arcade styled fun, I will be playing this game for a long time to come as I am a great fan of the games in the platforming action/ run ‘n gun genre. I was very pleased with this package and I am extremely grateful to be able to play this game and I send my thanks to Merge Games and Raven Travel Games for providing the review copy of the game.
I give Cast of the Seven Godsends 4/5 stars. The presentation and gameplay is fantastic and the only downsides I have seen from my experience playing it was the frustration that I encountered from the trial and error nature of the game and the problems with some visibility from the graphical style.