I find myself for the first time in the weird position of being able to say that Forward to the Sky is probably my favorite of the vaguely anime brawler titles that I’ve played for this feature, which is not a phrase I expected to type more or less ever. Not that I consider that to be high praise, though; it just means that the game manages to deliver its contents more effectively than others.
By the same token, it’s not dismissal, either. Like so many before it, this game was and is a labor of love; the people who made it are self-described fans working to make a game that feels like an anime game, and to their credit they’ve succeeded at that. The downside is that ironic as it sounds, a game all about climbing a tower winds up without a whole lot of verticality. The demo itself feels like a demo for what’s coming next, because it’s a very thin experience; at the same time, it’s a product that clearly wants to be exactly what it is.
It’s impossible for me to properly state the impact that Super Mario Bros. had on me as a youngster. I can’t say conclusively that it was the first game I ever played, although it might have been; I can conclusively say, however, that it’s the earliest thing that stuck in my memory. It was a remarkably long time before I owned an NES, so I remember playing it constantly at the houses of friends, including a few friends who may have been less “friends” and more “other kids my age with an NES.”
The down side was a number of visits that did no favors to my ability to socialize with others as a youngster; the up side was that I can go back to the game as an adult and re-examine it to find that yes, the game is pretty damn brilliant. It’s not an endless challenge like Tetris, but it does have a number of mechanical elements that make it a brilliant challenge, and chief among those is the one element of the game that no power-up can alter – the timer.
So, the good news from the last installment is that the world is coming to an end and the group completely failed to prevent that evil whatsit from emerging from his prison. Which admittedly sounds all like bad news, but conceivably there might be some good news in there somewhere. Yet the game must go on, even though the party is down a member.
This is actually a part of the game I kind of despise, for two reasons. The first is that it’s a foregone conclusion the main party is heading after Galuf, since otherwise the game would consist of sitting around and waiting to die. The second is that it results in your party getting janky amounts of ABP and experience until you’re reunited, which puts everyone at a different place development-wise. When it’s already possible to lose track of your overall trajectory…
Eh, getting ahead of myself. Let’s figure out how we can chase Beardy McBeardpants.
Anyone who has talked to me for a little while knows that I love Super Metroid. And I genuinely love it, have loved it for years, will not and, I feel, should not stop loving it. It’s a magnificent game, setting a standard for an entire genre that has frequently approached it and danced around what it accomplished without ever surpassing it – in a method that’s neither a disservice to the original nor a mark of shame for its numerous spiritual and literal successors.
Environmental Station Alpha is not Super Metroid. I don’t know if it can be Super Metroid, for that matter; that’s a high bar to aim for. What I do know is that I cannot in good conscience call it a bad game, but at the same time I can’t really say it’s a good one. It understands the formula, but it never feels like it’s actually transcending that formula, just twisting a new riff on it with minimal inventiveness.