I’ve been on a huge retro gaming kick for the past few years, from tracking down old consoles and classic games, to hacking a SNES Classic to emulate a massive catalog of ROMS. The Messenger, an upcoming release from Sabotage Studio, was an immediate interest, with classic 8 bit action obviously heavily inspired by Ninja Gaiden.
If you remember the NES Gaiden games, you probably recall them as incredibly hard, and wonky controlled ninja slash fests. The Messenger takes this old trope, and brings it forward to today’s gaming standards, with tight and responsive controls, a tongue in cheek plot, and a 16bit twist that amazes every time.
Plot wise, the game starts out as your average ninja movie does – your character being tasked to do the hero’s deed in this, our hour of need. You must jump, slash, and throw shruikens at evil monsters, all while rocking out to an amazing chiptune soundtrack.
Producer Martin Brouard then showed me how this old standard takes a significant twist with the introduction of the 4th wall breaking Shopkeeper and and how a leap forward in time and hardware generation shifts the action, graphics, and music from 8-bit, up to the SNES era 16 bit style.
In my time with the demo, I was hooked. Combat and platforming were as hard as an 8-bit homage demands, and the various metroidvania unlocks that the game slowly doles out all added quite a bit of dynamic range to our player character. I found myself falling quite a few times in the same area, without any frustration, as it was a simple lack of focus or timing on my part that caused me to die. Death also introduces Quarble, the little red demon who resurrects you and insults you for needing to do so. He then proceeds to steal whatever currency you unlock as payback for dragging your ninja ass back from hell. I hate/love him.
The plot, the humor, and the destruction of the ninja trope are still what I’m thinking about, and I’m excited to grab a copy of this when it releases digitally later this year on PC and Switch.