There’s been a large retro movement in indie games recently. A nice chunk of indie games are going back to the old days, when graphics were crude and unrealistic, and gameplay was simple and easy to pick up. These games usually end up with a simplistic look and feel that adds to the gameplay (such as in Hotline Miami) or an unpolished, chunky game that reminds players of all the drawbacks that technology used to have (such as in MiniFlake). The latest XBLIG game by developer Frog The Door seems to blend into both of these categories.
The gameplay in Vintage Hero is…well, it’s identical to the old Megaman games. It’s just about the exact same. You can jump, shoot, and move. You have four levels you can play in any order, and you gain the boss’s weapon when you defeat them at the end of the level. The only difference is that there is a leveling system, where you can increase your damage output, defense, health bar, and weapon charge. You lose all your experience when you run out of lives, which will happen quite often, even on normal difficulty. I had to move down to easy difficulty after my fifth loss.
Luckily, the levels themselves are fun. They’re designed to teach you various mechanics of the game as you’re playing, instead of including a tutorial at the start. This is a great technique for immersion, but the penalties for mistakes in Vintage Hero are as harsh as they were in the NES days. The various enemies you’ll run into each level are not to be taken at face value; many of them are a lot tougher than they seem. The boss fights, while simplistic and twitch-action based, are fun and immensely satisfying to beat.
The frustration is the only large hurdle to jump. The level design and platforming puzzles aren’t too much to handle, with a nice balance of cakewalks and “Just jump the damn gap!” moments. An essential part of this game is the return to the original difficulty of the first few console generations, but I can’t get over how punishing this game is. It’s not the fun type of failure when you die, either. It’s aggravating and it wears you down.
I think the craze over retro games is getting a little bit out of control. The nostalgia factor is still achievable without toning down your graphics. It might be easier to develop a game with more basic, 2D visuals, but some games have been taking it too far. I want to state that I enjoyed Vintage Hero. I enjoyed it from start to finish, but that’s mostly because I enjoyed Megaman 1 and 2. All three games are very, very close to the same thing in terms of graphics, gameplay, level design, physics, enemies, soundtrack…you get the idea. Vintage Hero is a very well designed game, but it had already been made. It was made back in 1987 by Capcom.
[review pros=”Levels are fun, enemies are creative, boss fights are energetic and satisfying” cons=”frustratingly difficult, unoriginal” score=39]