Bot Gaiden is a retro homage done right

Prolific localiser-publisher eastasiasoft has been keeping busy of late, putting out a wide variety of games covering a broad audience — not just fans of the lewd. They’ve had one or two missteps in terms of the indie games they’ve ported to consoles recently, though, and the reasoning is pretty much always the same: they’re games that attempt to adopt a retro aesthetic, but fail to understand what made actual retro games great. Thankfully, new release Bot Gaiden is a completely different matter.

Developed by SwordSwipe Studios and first released on PC in April of this year, Bot Gaiden is a high-speed precision platformer that, as the name suggests, takes heavy inspiration from Tecmo’s NES classic Ninja Gaiden — but that’s not all. There’s also a significant dose of Mega Man in the mix, too, as well as more than a pinch of Strider. And the blend works extraordinarily well — primarily because it’s abundantly clear that the folks at SwordSwipe Studios have extensively played their game’s inspirations, and have learned from them.

Bot Gaiden

In Bot Gaiden, you (and, optionally, a friend) take on the role of a ninja robot racing to recover the power skulls stolen by villain Giorqio’s Hench-Bots. Each Hench-Bot has their own distinctive themed stage, and completing each stage rewards you with additional abilities, ranging from simple extra lives to improvements to your core lineup of moves.

In classic Mega Man style, you can choose which order to tackle the stages in according to which power-ups you might want to unlock first — though a suggested first stage features unobtrusive tutorial signposts in the background to help you get accustomed to the controls.

There’s a strong emphasis on speedrunning in Bot Gaiden, as the game moves quite fast and each level has bronze, silver and gold “par times” for you to beat in order to unlock the rewards. Not only that, but the faster you reach the boss, the less health they have — perhaps an homage to Super Valis IV, which featured a similar mechanic.

Bot Gaiden

On top of that, picking up powerups tends to give you a temporary increase in speed, and most of the powerups are designed in such a way that they make slicing and dicing your way through each level easier — so long as you can hold on to them.

Bot Gaiden’s powerup system has a touch of Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario Bros. about it in that you can pick up powerups as you progress through the level, but taking damage causes you to lose them one at a time. Initially, you’ll get a Jump Jet, which allows you to double-jump, then a throwing star, then a dash attack and finally a burst of hyperspeed for a brief period. Key to speedrunning the game is attempting to chain these hyperspeed powerups together as much as possible, and making good use of the other abilities to slice through enemies like butter.

The playable characters Robyu and Bytron are agile fellows, and are capable of Ninja Gaiden-style wall grabbing, which is essential to proceeding through some tricky platforming sections — or indeed saving yourself from the powerful knockback some enemies can inflict on you.

Bot Gaiden

There’s also a “dodge” move that makes you temporarily invincible for as long as you hold the button — though holding this too long causes you to self-destruct. I want to believe that this is an homage to Atari’s classic Asteroids, where holding down the shield button for too long would do the same thing, but it’s hard to say how deep SwordSwipe Studios’ love of retro really goes for sure!

Bot Gaiden is a tricky game for sure, but not to an obnoxiously punishing or demoralising degree. The agility and durability of the main characters make it a lot more accessible than the early Mega Man games, for example, and the controls are much less stiff than classic Ninja Gaiden. The simultaneous two-player mode is also designed with cooperative supportiveness in mind — lagging players can catch up instantly, and more experienced players are able to offer assistance.

Likewise, the boss encounters are designed in such a way that they might initially appear unfeasibly difficult, but once you spot the clear patterns they all use, they can be dispatched with relative ease. This is pure Mega Man — albeit with considerably more gigantic sprites than one would typically see in the early NES installments in particular!

Bot Gaiden

The whole thing is tied together with a lovely comic book-style aesthetic, complete with an admirably enormous repertoire of visible onomatopoeia any time anything takes damage or is destroyed. The soundtrack is rockin’, the colours vibrant and striking and the action is smooth.

All in all, this is just a great game that deserves some recognition for not only being highly enjoyable on its own merits, but also for successfully paying respectful and intelligent homage to a wide variety of retro titles. A hearty thumbs up from us on this one.

Bot Gaiden is available now for Nintendo Switch, PS4/5 and Xbox. Thanks to eastasiasoft for the review copy.

Join The Discussion

Rice Digital Discord
Rice Digital Twitter
Rice Digital Facebook

Or write us a letter for the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page by clicking here!

Disclosure: Some links in this article may be affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you make a purchase after clicking on them. This is at no additional cost to you and helps support Rice Digital!

Pete Davison
Spread the love!

Related post

This will close in 0 seconds