Number Three: Bastion
Platforms: 360, PC, Chrome
Reviews: Joystiq, IGN, GameSpot
With downloadable titles taking off on home consoles, developers have been taking pointers from their 16-bit pasts. Some games are designed to look and feel like old, but with modern nuances added to the trim, like Super Meat Boy. Others prey on overwhelming feelings of nostalgia, like HD ‘remakes’ and unmodified re-releases (you know, like how Nintendo’s been selling you the exact same game in five-year intervals. How many times have you bought Link to the Past, because my number is three). Like it or not, selling your past back to you over and over again has become quite the cash cow, and isn’t likely to stop anytime soon.
What Bastion did that was so unique was creating a modern game in a genre that hasn’t been seen justice since the mid-Nineties. Everything about it feels like a trip down memory lane, but nothing about this game could’ve existed in the same console generation and Streets of Rage and Secret of Mana.
Any description about Bastion is going to pull at every memory you have playing a Super Nintendo. A silent protagonist picks up a small arsenal of weapons and goes out to save the world while a narrator describes the universe around him and the happenings on-screen. Nothing about that appears to be modern, and immediately your mind goes back to the glory days of old because, well, there really hasn’t been any (good, memorable) games like that since.
Seeing Bastion pulled off on current gaming hardware proves just how un-Retro it is. The ultra-vivid, painted landscapes beg for high-definition picture, while the Narrator would’ve been an impossibility in years past. The twelve idols empowering the player to take the risk of increased difficulty was a great translation on something as simple and vanilla as a difficulty switch. Then there’s the weapons: with progressions all their own and unique attacking styles and collectible special maneuvers, nothing feels pre-programed like it would’ve been almost two decades ago. The premise is nothing new, but the execution is something so deliciously unique and modern that comparing it to old RPG tropes is cutting away at the beautiful charm Supergiant Games created from scratch.
The game’s atmosphere is right along a full retail title like Portal 2 – unwavering. The music is just the right fit and style for this unworldly adventure the Kid disembarks on, but what makes the setting and the mood is the Narrator. Single-handedly taking what would’ve been a great game without into a game that shouldn’t be missed under any circumstance. Describing trivial character actions as well as filling in important background stories and current events. And it feels just as if you’re being told a story, and playing the game is just for fun.
Storytelling has been delegated to the back-burner, as has developing something truly new and unique – even if it doesn’t sound it. Bastion has something that big-budget titles like Call of Duty and Battlefield could never have – a shot at giving the player another shot at experiencing something different for the first time. Last year, Kirby’s Epic Yarn gave gamers another chance to feel childhood wonder all over again. This year, Bastion took notes from Kirby, and didn’t at the same time.