It’s about 1 a.m. when my tired, burning eyes land on a particular title in the Deals section of the Nintendo E-Shop. The image of a side scrolling warrior fighting a large, brilliant green dragon in 8-bit pixel art. Well, kinda super 8-bit as it uses a few more colors than the NES could run at once, but not enough to not feel like an MES game. What really caught me was how eclectic the art was, while at the same time being authentic to It’s inspirations. This dragon, for example, would be best described as “that is a Megaman lookin-ass dragon.” I mean this in a good, almost cringey in my appreciation kinda way. In essence, that’s what Aggelos is: a beautiful amalgamation of the best that 8-bit action/adventure had to offer, with a dash of some later games such as Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
Maybe thats too in depth. I could call it what it is. It’s like if Zelda 2 and Castlevania SotN got wasted on Captain America serum and made 8-bit babies. Sure, it has some of the gameplay jank of the 8-bit era, but if you come into a retro game not expecting small flying enemies to annoyingly spawn from the sides of the screen only existing hit you mid-jump, then what are you even doing? What I’m getting at is it 99% borrows the right stuff from your favorite classics, and it nails the experience.
You begin your quest as a young blonde boy with a sword who lives in the forrest who must help the princess in a nearby castle and collect the elemental orbs, so it doesn’t exactly set the storytelling world on fire as much as it rests pleasantly and comfortably on the palate like a master crafted grilled cheese sandwich. Familiar and satisfying.
That is not to say that this game doesn’t do anything new. On the contrary, this game improves on nearly ever aspect it pays homage to. The bosses of each temple are challenging, but have a Megaman/Zelda style weakness employing the power you recently obtained. It’s less brain dead than Megaman’s “Choose right weapon. Shoot boss in face. Profit. formula. Each of the four magic powers have various uses and multiple effects, so the boss battles are tense in an almost Dark Souls or Hollow Knight kinda way, making you think on your toes and pull off some tricky platforming.
The combat is fun and precise. You gain access to a downward thrust (a la Zelda 2) pretty early on. Magic spells are aquired in the dungeons and are multifaceted. The a projectile can turn certain enemies into platforms or create portals. This sets up for some neat, if easy puzzles. The map kinda reminds me of Castlevania 2 which is a good thing no you shut up.
The music is catchy chip-tune stuff that sounds at home with all the little ditties you remember from way back. There’s a lot of Akito Nakatsuka vibes going on here. The visuals are charming and the pixel art is top-notch.
Most importantly, I didn’t feel like I was playing a really neat retro title. Somewhere about a half hour into it, I just kinda slipped into the long lost feeling of playing an action adventure on the NES. I almost reached over to put my hand into a half stale box of Nintendo cereal that hadn’t been there in decades. Without me noticing, it took me back. It didn’t do this by constantly referencing things I used to like, but taking timeless elements and folding them carefully into the overall experience. I’m glad I came across this one. While retro style games have become less of a rarity these days, gems like this one shouldn’t be missed.
Screenshots taken by me. Aggelos property of LookAtMyGame and PQube Ltd.