You know, I think it’s safe to say the Nintendo Switch is swiftly becoming a Metroid fan’s console. Not only is Metroid Prime 4 on its way, but there are already about four Metroid clones I can think of that are already available on the thing. My personal favorite has to be The Mummy: Demastered, and I’ve written a review on it previously. With A Robot Named Fight, however, it’s evident that my not-Metroid escapades aren’t ending anytime soon.
What’s funny about all this is that I’ve never even played through a single official Metroid game. I only own Metroid Prime 3, and it remains in my oh-so-huge backlog. I thought the whole “Metroidvania” genre would scare me off due to the emphasis on exploration and whatnot, but I’m instead experiencing these games with ease. Maybe someday, I’ll pick up the 2D Metroids and play through them in the same fashion.
Millennia of peace have passed since the mechanical gods ascended and left the lower order robots to cultivate the world. Unfortunately for those left behind, something forgotten and terrible stirs amidst the stars: the Megabeast, a pulsating moon-sized orb of flesh, eyes, mouths and reproductive organs – unleashing its children onto the world like an unstoppable plague.
As A Robot That Looks Suspiciously Like Samus Aran, you must go and stop the Megabeast to end all evils.
Well, this certainly looks the part. It doesn’t quite match the superb pixel art quality of The Mummy, but A Robot Named Fight has plenty of crisp sprites and backgrounds for eyes to feast on. What it does have over Wayforward’s game is the way the environments play around with the atmosphere in terms of color and focus. Some areas could be dimly lit, while others have color combinations beyond the usual dark shades. The game looks pretty darn solid as a result of how successfully it conveys the terrain and the lively enemies roaming around.
A Robot Named Fight has a mostly atmospheric sort of soundtrack that wouldn’t be out of place from its inspiration. It assists in conveying the dark cavernous tones established by the elaborate spritework. There’s something about the instrumentals used that reminds me of the olden days of the Game Boy Advance. Maybe it’s because I used to own Metroid: Zero Mission when it was new; pieces like what plays during the cave segments give off this sort of nostalgic vibe to it. The sound design in general is effective and to the point, albeit certain effects such as the lighting gun are too loud and distracting for my liking. There’s not enough of oddities like that to deter the overall flavor, though.
If you’ve ever played a Metroid game before, you’ll know almost exactly what you’re in for. It’s a platforming game that branches out into an exploration extravaganza. Along the way are various kinds of enemies with their own unique patterns and behaviors. Killing them means gunning them down with your arm cannon and possibly other power-ups you find in this extremely huge connection of pathways and mazes. You’re able to fire in eight directions, and switching weapons is easy and intuitive. What makes this stand out from Metroid, though? Three words: Random map generation. No playthrough of A Robot Named Fight is alike thanks to the map completely changing every time.
This gave me war flashbacks of Vaccine, a Resident Evil-inspired game that used this “roguelike” element in the worst way possible. Thankfully, A Robot Named Fight avoids the pitfalls of randomization by smartly keeping the layouts of each room the same, only differing slightly depending on the progress made. The positions of the rooms, on the other hand, are constantly unpredictable. This also goes to the power-ups. There’s a plethora of upgrades and gadgets in this title; it’s actually insane! There are different kinds of ways to boost your jumps, set things on fire, see in the dark, etc. Floating orbs can also be a good help for collecting things or providing extra projectiles to fire at an enemy. There are even lots of items helpfully marked on the map as hidden within areas. Fellow robots can also offer random methods of upgrades at the cost of collectibles you find upon killing enemies and such.
Sadly, there is one overarching problem that has a habit of hurting me: The death penalty. If you die in this game, you have to restart the entire shebang over again. I can hear the “Dur hur this is the Dark Souls of Metroid games” coming a mile away as I’m on the subject of difficulty, but the fact of the matter is I don’t like to feel like my time is wasted when playing through a game. I don’t mind restarting over from a Game Over as long as the game in question can be beaten in a short period of time. I do enjoy some games that do that, such as Laser Disco Defenders. Like that game, A Robot Named Fight can be said to have a high learning curve despite its effort to ease things with items and health and energy upgrades (there is even a chamber that respawns you one time after death if you find it). The problem is this is a freakin’ Metroid clone; it requires much more investment and time than a typical arcade-style affair. Every time I spent over 30+ minutes during the playthrough only to die, I get infuriated and wonder what else I could have done with those 30+ minutes. My desire to try again could only go on for so long.
This is where I get conflicted. It’s very clear to me A Robot Named Fight is a competently made game that utilizes a strong foundation and runs with it for an excellently executed map generation gimmick. When I play it, I have a lot of fun exploring and making my way through it all. But when I happen to get a bit too careless or realize too soon what an enemy has over me, that’s when my motivation to play again gets snapped in half. I imagine there’s appeal in trying and trying again and seeing what’s new after the fact, but I have no understanding as to why this mechanic is necessary. I’m sure the game could have its map generation work just fine without the harsh punishment. Even more baffling to me is there are technically save files and a password system, but neither are actually used to get you back to where you once were. This could probably even be changed with a simple patch.
What I’m trying to say is, at its core, A Robot Named Fight is a great game that has a ton to like under its belt. However, I can’t help but wonder what could have been if it was a little more lenient on Game Overs. This kind of archaic mentality does not work well with a Metroid-style game at all, except maybe for the streamers or speedrunners out there that willingly try and try and try again to better themselves. I still like this game, and I do give it a modest recommendation to those that don’t mind having to go through these lengths to get good. Yet, that recommendation would have been a lot bigger had it not been for this absurd implementation.