Review Fix chats with Mega Cat Studios Andrew M, who discusses Almost Hero on the Nintendo Entertainment System. Dedicated to bringing new retro gems to the NES, Sega Genesis and even the PC, Andrew and his comrades feel like “Almost Hero” is a beat-em-up any retro fan will enjoy.
About ALMOST HERO FOR THE NINTENDO ENTERTAINMENT SYSTEM:
Choose your ninja path, from self-defense class drop out, to industry-saving philanthropist. Play as either ninja hopeful, Orville or Reginald, and be the hero you always knew you could be as you battle against a colorful cast of villains in this throwback to the beat ’em up genre.
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Review Fix: How was this game born?
Andrew M.: Good beat em ups are few and far between on the NES due to how demanding they are on the console. While there’s a pretty nice collection of them, it’s nothing compared to their younger 16-bit brothers. We wanted to be able to capture what was great about the titles we did get, while giving the people that love those classics something new to experience.
It’s a beat em up that can work great for a speed runner, has a low learning curve, and still provides two player couch co-op for double the ninja action.
Review Fix: What was development like?
Andrew: Doing any kind of retro development is always a pretty unique experience. Living within the constraints of 30 year old hardware brings some pretty interesting and fun challenges to the table, and it always takes a lot of creative thought from the whole team to not just overcome those challenges, but to figure out new ways to break through those constraints.
Review Fix: What makes this game special?
Andrew: I think that it really comes down to the humor that we injected into it, along with some of the crazy boss battles that we included. You don’t get a lot of room to tell a story on the NES, so being able to add in a little character to a game on that console is always something special.
Review Fix: What games influenced this one the most?
Andrew: I think that this game has the DNA of a lot of different beat em ups of the time. It’s kind of hard to pinpoint specifics because its flavor was definitely influenced by all the greats of the era from the Turtles beat ’em ups, to things like River City Ransom. Even from an art standpoint, there was definitely influences from some of Capcom’s works on the NES.
Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Andrew: I think some of the most fun that we had was in writing names and descriptions for the items that you can purchase in the game. When we decided to go with VHS tapes for the player’s upgrades, it opened the door to throwing out all kinds of wild ideas about what they should be named, and what your master should be saying about them. It definitely led to turning the character of your master from just being your normal run of the mill martial arts instructor to a pretty zany character.
Review Fix: How does this game disrupt the video game landscape?
Andrew: I think that it disrupts it in a way by showing that not only the retro style is alive and well, but playing games on the old hardware from our youth is strong as well. There’s still a very dedicated community out there for pure retro gaming, and we are trying to do our part to cater to them just as much as someone who prefers something more modern.
Review Fix: What makes this a unique game on the NES?
Andrew: A lot of the beat em up games on the NES are pretty reliant on just standing in front of your enemy and mashing the attack button. While they are still pretty great experiences in their own right, it’s kind of hard to ignore that the game play can get a little repetitive compared to other games out today. What we did with Almost Hero is we made a beat em up where strategy and awareness of your surroundings take a little bit more of the focus. Enemies can pretty easily overwhelm the player if they just stand still and attack, so the player needs to make smart decisions about how to tackle the enemy. That wasn’t something that you got a lot of back in the day.
Review Fix: Why do you think people still love retro beat-em-ups so much?
Andrew: It’s a pretty timeless genre, and arcade style beat em ups are a pretty great example of good games just being good games. The game play style in those games tend to be pretty simple, so having interesting visuals that are fun to look at have a little bit of extra emphasis as well. Not to mention that it’s just kind of fun to take a character out on the streets and deliver a little justice to some dangerous criminals.
Review Fix: Who will enjoy this game the most?
Andrew: I think it will have a pretty broad appeal across the board. At conventions we’ve seen people who grew up with the NES, and even children who had never experienced it before enjoying it pretty equally. Obviously due to the fact that it’s a physical NES game though, there’s definitely going to be a stronger showing for people who loved the NES back in the day, and still love it today.
Review Fix: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Andrew: We’ll be pretty happy if people think that it can live in the same space as some of its classic counter parts. If this game can be seen favorably in the same sentence as games like River City Ransom and Mighty Final Fight then I can die happy. Or I can die alone, holding my only companion, the first copy of Almost Hero.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the game?
Andrew: Our goal is always to entertain people. There is nothing in this for ourselves other than the satisfaction of getting to see people having a good time, and being the ones that were able to provide it to them. If people are playing the game and cherishing the time that they spent with it, then everything has gone according to plan.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Andrew: Almost Hero is a game that has a pretty special place in my heart. It’s one of my personal favorite genres on my favorite console. I think a lot of the team feels that way as well. So we are definitely looking forward to seeing what people think about it, and it will be great to see them get to enjoy it.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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