A Robot Named Fight! releases on Steam today, a new metroidvania game that goes beyond giving homages to the games that defined the genre. In fact, the similarities can be a too striking at times. That could be good, because who could hate a game that reminds them of a superb classic? But, being a close-but-not-quite could also sour the experience; because who would want to play a constant reminder of something nostalgic and better? Well the good news is that ARNF! narrowly skirts the knock-off hazards by incorporating enough rogue-like elements to be refreshing and engaging.
Matt Bitner, the sole developer and producer of this title, has no qualms in stating that this is his “love letter” to the classic Metroid (and other retro NES games). In seconds of playing you’ll come across the all too familiar energy doors the open when shot, little floor hugging creatures, and the dissolving blocks that usher players to secret areas. To erase any doubt of who inspired this game there is even a statue that contains an item that lets you turn into a ball. Within the first hour, I happened upon a boss fight that was more the Draygon boss battle from Super Metroid than anything else. Except instead of Draygon, this thing looked like a giant colon polyp with mouths. Within the next twenty minutes, I was in front of another boss, only this time I died, but that’s what ARNF! really begins.
Dying and starting over is almost like getting a big update for your favorite game. The kind of update that adds new items, enemies, bosses, and new intro levels. Essentially, the exact same has happened to your Fight! game. The lore of the game while mostly silly and trite, serves to explain that when one robot fails to destroy the flesh entities another will sometime later and try again. These levels are procedural, and the permadeaths you fall into serve to unlock items on your next playthrough. That’s the kind of modern touch seen in Binding of Isaac and Dead Cells that energizes this overdone genre.
ARNF! (yeah, I like saying ARNF!) handles the random generation so well. The puzzle solving and item collection isn’t lost in any way just because the game procedurally recreates itself. Each iteration ensures that you will not be stuck, that this item is in reach of the special door that opens it. That before said titanic boss there are health and energy boosts around to help improve your chances against it. Further it will be daunting to play through the entire game without dying. As a nice touch, you can quit the game at any time and resume later. Dying however, resets your single player campaign to the start adding in whatever you unlocked on your last journey.
A Robot Named Fight! isn’t an ultra slick triple AAA title, it has some unsightly blemishes here and there (especially that odd downward phallic shooting pose). If I have to throw in another complaint, is that ARNF!’s gameplay speed and controls feel a little on the sluggish side. And sure, it’s not a true Super Metroid replica, and it doesn’t have to be (although I’m glad Matt Bitner . What ARNF! brings to the table is more than enough to cover its blemishes. Further, it’s developed by one guy and being released at a budget price. The amount of replayability alone should be enough to please both avid and casual metroidvania fans.