I think we can all agree that 2020 was not that great of a year. Well, for most things anyway. In terms of gaming I had no qualms whatsoever. Last year saw the release of a lot of great games and I got to review a few of them, such as Borderlands Collection and Ys Origin on the Switch, as well as Torchlight III on the Xbox One. After some newer 3D games though it’s nice to just settle down for a bit after work and relax with a nice 2D-style platformer. I’m a sucker for NES and Super NES-style platformers, provided they’re not too easy or too difficult. I don’t mind games being a challenge if it’s done the right way. Does Golden Force meet those expectations or is the game a bit too difficult for my taste? Let’s find out by checking out Golden Force on the Nintendo Switch.
In Golden Force you take control of one of four characters, mercenaries of the Golden Force, in an attempt to defeat the King of Demons. Each of the four characters (Gutz, Spina, Drago, and Elder) plays about the same but their attacks are unique. The game consists of four worlds with a few stages in each. Each stage is a typical platformer where the goal is to simply reach the end, but will have multiple paths where you can grab coins and hidden collectibles to spend in the shop. Many enemies will pop up throughout the stages along with a boss fight in the final stage in each world. On the surface it seems like a pretty enjoyable game, and it can be.
Golden Force looks and controls like a classic Super NES game which I’m always a sucker for. Each character has a basic attack that you can combo enemies with, a dash attack, and a slide. You can also charge up your basic attack to deal more damage to enemies or to send smaller objects flying around the screen, either damaging enemies or hitting secret switches. Attacking upwards will allow you to juggle enemies in the air to extend your combo so you can defeat enemies faster. It's nice because there are a couple of nuances that will make you want to finish off enemies as fast as humanly possible. Beyond that, Golden Force is a platformer whose goal is to have a certain degree of difficulty to it. But there are a few things that may make things a bit too difficult.
For starters the range of your weapons can leave a bit to be desired. Granted they are melee weapons, but a lot of the time it feels like you have to be right up next to some enemies for your attacks to be effective. Couple that with you moving slightly forward when you attack and comboing enemies can move you directly into them. Thankfully there is a bit of leeway when in a combo to where enemies won’t damage you if you’re right on top of them. You want to try to keep enemies in combos as much as possible to not only fill up your combo gauge and to get a better end-of-stage score, but to keep them from hitting you.
I have noticed, though, that some enemies don’t take damage equally among hits. The best way to put this is there’s an enemy in one of the early levels that, when I hit them with a full three hit combo, I can see their health quickly drain by 75 percent. However, it then takes a few more hits to get that final bit of health down. I’m not sure if that’s an issue with how health is displayed but it did seem a bit weird. Then there are a couple of enemies that can appear and respawn out of thin air, or thin ground, I guess. Thankfully they do spawn a small ways in front of you so you do have time to react, but less-skilled players will probably take a lot of damage over the course of the game due to this alone.
While you can get used to the spawning enemies almost right in front of you and the weird hit boxes, there is one enemy that will take some time to get used to. You possibly won't get used to it at all: the camera. When traversing a stage left to right the camera is just fine. The problem occurs when the screen scrolls vertically, especially when moving around in the water. As early as the second stage you have to swim around in water and, when moving downwards, the camera keeps you near the bottom of the screen making it nearly impossible to see what’s below you. It all but guarantees you’ll take a few hits on the way down, and you only have a few HP to start with. Moving upwards thankfully isn’t as bad, but it’s weird that when moving downwards the game keeps you that close to the bottom of the screen.
As difficult as the game can be we haven’t even touched on the bosses yet. The bosses are difficult, which makes sense—they’re supposed to be. However, even as early as the very first boss in the intro stage the bosses can be long, dragged-out battles where you’ll die more than once. When there’s a boss in most intro stages, it’s usually taken down within a matter of a minute or so. The fight is typically meant to ease you into the game’s mechanics and prepare you for what’s ahead. Golden Force’s intro stage fight feels a regular multi-phase boss fight that takes a few minutes, depending on how fast you can attack it. The second phase even has you jumping between “platforms” while avoiding enemy attacks and attacking the boss.
Not going to lie, I died a few times on the intro boss. The boss of the first world is even longer of a fight as it has multiple phases and each phase has a specific weak point to attack. If you don’t take out the weak point quickly enough you have to start the entire cycle from scratch. Even when you think the fight is over, there’s a shorter final phase that almost might as well not be there. I’m not saying the boss fights are bad, but they seem a bit overly difficult, even for a game like this that’s geared towards being difficult.
If you’re having issues with some stages you can always head to the shop to spend some of your well-earned coins and treasure in the shop. This is both good and bad. The good is that you can purchase some abilities for your attacks such as ice, lightning, and fire, as well as items to auto-revive you when you run out of health and make you invincible for a short period of time. It does take some figuring out how to use them though as you have to hit L to bring up the item and then click the left control stick to use it. The bad is that each item is pretty expensive, ranging from 1,500 coins to as many as 4,500.
To put that into perspective, after clearing the first four stages I had just over 4,000 coins. In other words, the items are pretty expensive. There are two permanent items you can buy that will give you an extra hit point and give you an extra hit on your ground combos, but those cost treasure—the big treasure you can find four of in each stage. Those come in two types: giant coins (used to buy the extra hit points) and sea shells (used to purchase the extra hit for the ground combo).
Presentation-wise the game has some issues. As early as the later part of the first world I had a few instances of dropping framerate. It wasn’t anything that would affect your gameplay but it was definitely noticeable. I don’t recall playing a game in this style in quite a while that’s had framerate issues. The other issue is something that kind of perplexes me. Each stage has a stage number such as 1-1 and a stage name. For instance, the first stage is called “Stage 1-1 Welcome to the Jungle!” That’s perfectly fine. Heck, even just “1-1” would be good. Then you have world two which is just bizarre as each stage name is formatted like “LVL_STAGE_2_1 LVLTITLE_2_1”, and that doesn’t happen just once. That’s something I would expect out of a game’s demo, like if the developers hadn’t figured out the stage names yet. In a final product, though, that’s curious as to why it’s like that. Granted it doesn’t affect the overall gameplay, and I’ve said before I’m not one to criticize graphics to an extent, but graphics and presentation are two different things.
Overall, Golden Force is enjoyable but difficult. Perhaps too difficult for some players. The long boss fights early on, the respawning enemies nearly on top of you, the weird hit boxes, and the downward moving camera issues may make things too difficult, even for those like me who prefer a good challenge. Combined with the framerate issues and the weird formatting of the level names, it all makes for an interesting presentation to say the least. If you like a challenge feel free to give Golden Force a shot. But just keep in mind that the game is rather short with only four worlds.
* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company.