The Evercade is, as we’ve fairly firmly established at this point, a wonderful platform for retro gaming. The 30 carts that are currently available — plus more on the way later this year — feature a wide variety of games from numerous classic platforms, all emulated beautifully in both handheld and TV-connected console form factor.
A few updates ago, the Evercade team ran an experiment with native, non-emulated games for the Evercade VS — if you want to try them for yourself, make sure your console is up to date, then press the Menu button on the controller 10 times from the main menu screen to play Fairy Fire, or press L2, L2, R2, R2, L1, L1, R1, R1 to play Hummingz. As you can probably tell from the fact that those games are still buried in the Evercade VS firmware, the experiment went well — but that’s not all that’s been happening on the quiet.
A newly announced dual cart for the Evercade features two modern indie classics: Alwa’s Awakening and Cathedral. And both of these games, despite having been previously released on other platforms, have something remarkable about them: firstly, the version of Alwa’s Awakening is the new 8-bit version, which features expanded content and was built specifically for the NES rather than just to look like an NES game; and secondly, the version of Cathedral is the first full native game for the platform to be released on a cartridge.
We’ve had the good fortune to have an early look at both, and can happily confirm that both look and feel absolutely wonderful on both the Evercade handheld and the Evercade VS — plus you can bet they’ll be wonderful on the EXP when it launches later this year also.
If you’re unfamiliar with the two games, let’s take a closer look now!
In Alwa’s Awakening, you play the role of a video game-obsessed girl named Zoe, who falls asleep one evening and wakes up in another world. There, she’s unceremoniously informed that she’s the only one who can save this land, known as Alwa, and sets off on an adventure to bop a bunch of monsters on the head with her magic staff, collect various goodies and ultimately return peace to the troubled kingdom.
The game is an exploration-centric platformer where you control Zoe from a side-on perspective, whacking monsters and collecting treasures. As you progress through the game, you’ll upgrade Zoe’s abilities in various ways, allowing you to access new areas and tackle tougher opponents.
The original release of Alwa’s Awakening was a “modern retro” game designed to resemble the NES, but this new 8-bit version has been built from the ground up for the classic Nintendo platform — which the Evercade has proven itself to be very strong at emulating well. It also features two new areas that were not in the original release of the game, so even if you’re already familiar with the existing release of Alwa’s Awakening it’s worth revisiting.
Prior releases of Alwa’s Awakening have been very well received, so it’s great to see a substantial experience like this on Evercade.
Like Alwa’s Awakening, Cathedral is an exploration-centric platformer. This time around, you take control of a knight with no name who has woken up in an unfamiliar realm — seems to be an occupational hazard for heroes of this sort of game. Your job is to figure out where you are, determine who you are, gather a collection of elemental orbs and perhaps even make it home in time for tea.
In true exploration platformer style, Cathedral involves a lot of investigating the map thoroughly, finding items and upgrades to improve your own abilities and occasionally re-exploring previous areas to reach places that were previously inaccessible. There are plenty of interesting traversal puzzles throughout the game; some of these involve simple platforming skills, while others involve making good use of your items or our unnamed hero’s spirit companion.
As a native game for Evercade, Cathedral isn’t constrained by the limitations of a retro host platform, but it has nonetheless been designed as a “modern retro” title. What that means is that its colour palette and resolution is designed to deliberately evoke memories of the NES, but the graphics are presented in a widescreen aspect ratio and feature a level of detail that simply wouldn’t have been possible on a classic 8-bit platform.
The music, too, has been composed in such a way that it makes use of many of the distinctive waveforms of the NES’ sound chip, but without the constraints of a limited number of sound channels. The result is a fantastic soundtrack that sounds indisputably retro, but which has the sort of rich texture the humble 8-bit platforms could only have dreamed of back in the day. (Unless they used that awesome chip in the Japanese Castlevania III cartridge, obviously.)
Cathedral is an absolutely huge game that will keep you busy for a good long while — but as the first native game for Evercade, it’s important and noteworthy for another reason, too.
The Evercade has already shown itself to be a viable and desirable platform on which to release modern indie titles developed for classic systems, as seen with the Mega Cat Studios and Indie Heroes cartridges that are already available for the platform. Cathedral’s existence shows that Evercade is also a suitable platform for indie developers to release full-scale modern games on, too; obviously, given the platform’s focus, retro-style games are the most obvious fit, but even within that subsector of indie development, there’s plenty of stuff to choose from.
To name just a few “modern retro” indie titles that would be a great fit for Evercade: Shovel Knight, Mighty Gunvolt Burst, the Shantae series, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and its sequel, Blaster Master Zero and its two sequels, Astalon: Tears of the Earth… and I’m sure you all have your own favourites you could suggest, too.
In other words, developers of games like this should very much be taking Evercade seriously as a platform for the future. Because not only is the system more than capable of showing these titles running well, it’s also an opportunity for games that would normally be digital only to get a collectible physical release without going through limited-press companies. And for the players, it’s a great opportunity to show their support for their favourite indie developers by proudly displaying their work on their shelves.
It’s an exciting time to be an Evercade fan, for sure. You’ll be able to preorder the Alwa’s Awakening and Cathedral cart from July 29, 2022, and the cart itself will be available from October of 2022.
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