Author Topic: Shieldmaiden: Remix Edition (Switch eShop) Review  (Read 675 times)

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Offline Halbred

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Shieldmaiden: Remix Edition (Switch eShop) Review
« on: January 25, 2023, 11:26:45 AM »

Mistakes were made.

Here’s my ultimate takeaway from Shieldmaiden: Remix Edition for the Nintendo Switch family of systems: I don’t understand how it made it to launch with a couple extremely clear, extremely frustrating platforming issues intact. You don’t have to play a lot of video games to understand both why these things are so bad and how they could be fixed. I don’t generally go right into the problems at the top of my reviews, but I want to make them absolutely crystal clear here.

1. You can’t see what’s below you. Oftentimes, you’ll know there ARE things below you, but the camera is positioned so that Asta (the titular maiden) is at the bottom of the screen. You are usually looking at the sky above her. How do you find out what’s below? Leaps of faith, dear reader. If you drop off a platform, you’ll either be greeted with blessed terra firma or, more often, a bottomless pit. Now this might not be an issue if you weren’t encouraged to dutifully explore every stage to find trinkets, but you are, and you will find trinkets below your immediate field of view. Or, more often, bottomless pits. This is almost unforgivably frustrating because it’s such a simple remedy—just position the camera so that Asta is closer to the middle of the screen like every other 2D platformer on Arceus' green Earth. Or, if you must tempt fate, give the poor girl a way out of bottomless pits. Or, you know, no bottomless pits at all! That’s also a solution!

2. Asta’s wall-jump is shockingly unintuitive. There are essentially two kinds of wall-jumps in video games: the Mega Man X type and the Super Mario 64 type (also known as the Ratchet & Clank type). The former allows you to climb a vertical surface. In the latter, you zig-zag up two parallel columns before eventually landing at the top. Asta uses the Super Mario 64 technique, but the developers don’t often add that critical second column to encourage zig-zagging. Instead, to get up any kind of vertical surface taller than Asta’s standard jump (which is often), you must have Asta jump off the side...away from your direction of travel, then hold the opposite direction and press A to dash. The hope is that the height of that wall-jump will clear the remaining height of the wall, and then you must dash to land on top of it. This leads to nothing but frustration and needless re-traversal. Listen, if you want to put tall vertical surface in your game, great, but you will need the Mega Man X technique. The combination of wall-jump, press forward, dash is complicated and imprecise. Be better.

Okay. That’s out of the way.

*deep breath*

Shieldmaiden: Remix Edition is an interesting but largely by-the-numbers stage-based platformer with very interesting combat and extremely frustrating environmental traversal (see manifesto above). You play as Asta, a heroine looking for answers regarding the disappearance of her sister immediately before a vaguely-defined cataclysm sent the city of Modigard into ruin.

Combat is the best part of the game. Asta has what’s essentially a Captain America shield that can absorb enemy shots to build up a power meter that results in a screen-filling special attack. She can throw the shield in pretty much any direction and it will bounce back to her. She can use it as a blunt instrument as well, and even a “surfboard” along certain but sadly few surfaces. Using the shield for its intended purpose is a balancing act. It can’t absorb an endless stream of energy attacks, but that’s also the only way to build up her special meter. It’s especially effective against the wide-beam attacks of boss monsters. The only real hiccup in combat is that the game relies heavily a bit too heavily on kill rooms.

Enemies take advantage of this balancing act, spitting out hard-to-dodge barrages of bullets that are best absorbed before pummeling said aggressors with your shield. Boss fights are tense affairs at first, but like any retro-stylized platformer, have plenty of telegraphed moves to look for. Most bosses must be stunned with your special attack before they can be damaged, leading to an interesting mix between playing defense, using physical attacks, and hitting that special attack at just the right time.

The one somewhat frustrating thing about combat is that you can’t “lock” Asta in place while throwing the shield, but it actually wasn’t as big a problem as I thought it would be.

The platforming, sadly, is where Shieldmaiden falls apart. The combat is great, but unfortunately, you must move through the environment using a moveset that is not up to the task. As I noted above, two things in particular would have improved the traversal a hundred-fold, but a couple other things would have further solidified it: Asta is begging for a double-jump, which would be another way to improve Shieldmaiden’s verticality issues, and you can’t use the D-pad to control her. I know I’m not in the minority when I say that 2D platformers should have an option to use the D-pad for movement. It’s not being used for anything else.

There’s a story told mostly through dialogue between Asta and her AI helper, whose name I don’t remember. It’s mostly background noise, but there are some nice exchanges here and there. The actual plot never rises to anything above "I need to find my sister!", but that said, Shieldmaiden isn’t a particularly long game, clocking in at about two hours if you don’t bother too much with collectibles—which you can go back for after beating the story.

Another strange control issue has to do with dialogue scrolling. In every other game on Earth, you’d move to the next bit of dialogue with the A button, but here, it’s the R1 button. I initially assumed that was because dialogue would be happening during combat and you’d need the A button free for dashing. Weirdly, that’s not the case—lengthy dialogue sequences occur in isolation, so I remain confused as to why it’s defaulted to R1.

The game’s end hints at sequel potential, and while I wasn’t overly impressed with Shieldmaiden, I might be interested in a second quest, assuming the developers address the many platforming issues that plague this game.

This would be my PSN Trophy Card, but I guess I can't post HTML in my Signature. I'm the pixel spaceship, and I have nine Gold trophies.