An Overlooked Era
In recent years, the glut of 8- and 16-bit inspired games has filled the gaming market. It felt like this would be the only past generation to be emulated because most look back on the 32-bit era as a necessary evil to pave the path for better looking 3D games and not an aesthetic most are nostalgic for.
Lunistice, a small indie game on the Nintendo Switch and PC, came to my attention in a couple of Youtuber’s end of year lists. This game had gone completely under my radar since dropping in September. While indie games on the Switch are more plentiful than crabs on my Aunt Gertie’s pubes, this one stood out because of its 32-bit style visuals.
Seeing as it was on sale for less than $5.00, I took a chance on it, and dollar for dollar, it’s one of the best games I’ve played this year.
A Lost Hidden Gem?
I want to preface the rest of this review by saying the price factored into my overall feelings about this game. If this had been a $20.00+ price point, I would feel less enthusiastic.
While the game is a good time and kept me hooked until the end, it does feel like someone found a nearly finished prototype of a cancelled game from 1997 and dumped it. There are few enemy types, and the music didn’t feel like anything special to me. The game play is also a bit simplistic, but that adds to the game’s overall charm.
Obviously, this game can’t compete with the AAA titles released this year, but few games from this year have provided the same joy and fun factor.
Tanuki to the Max!
The player takes the role of Hana the tanuki, a creature I’ve only played previously as Mario in his furry phase.
The player guides Hana through a series of 3D levels across a variety of themed worlds. She can jump and double jump and even has a spin attack to destroy enemies or get a little bit of extra air time.
There is a pseudo open world aspect to the game, but Hana is confined to mostly floating platforms. I’ve heard comparisons to Nights into Dreams for the Saturn, and while it’s not entirely offbase, I’ve already had more fun with Lunistice than I have in my 25 years of trying to figure out why people rave about Nights so much.
The goal of the game is to collect origami swans while making it through the level as quickly as possible. Thankfully, there are no “lives” in the game, but it does keep count of the number of times the player either falls off a cliff or loses all their life energy and has to reset to the last save point. At the end of the level, the player receives a grade for how well they did in these aspects.
The game straddles the perfect balance of simple yet addicting. Regardless of the number of failures I had in a level, I wanted to keep going until I reached the end.
Bring Me My Nostalgia Pills!
The visuals are bright and cheery, even when adding in the blurriness and jagged pixels common from that time. Like most retro-inspired games, this probably has a little more going on than a PS1 or Saturn could muster, but it feels enough like a game that would play on either of those. In fact, I couldn’t help but think that if they dropped Sonic into this, it could pass for a better version of whatever the hell Sonix X-treme was going to be.
The game reminds me of that slither in time when the 32-bit generation was still finding its legs. Super Mario 64 hadn’t yet graced the world with its presence, and titles like Bug! promised 3D but kept to a mostly 2D path. I suppose it could always be worse.
I Want Some More
I can’t say I’m begging for more 32-bit inspired games, but I was pleasantly surprised with this offering. This game serves as the perfect end point to the year I spent replaying and discovering many Saturn games. If Sega had been able to push something like Lunistice out the door nearly 30 years ago, maybe that generation would have played out a little differently.
As a gamer and a parent of two girls, it’s hard to find something engaging that I can play with them. This fits the bill perfectly. As a gamer who fondly remembers those early 3D steps and missteps, it also briefly takes me back to that time. For anyone who enjoys quality games, though, it’s worth checking out.
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