Battle Kid: Fortress of Paril Review (NES)

 

A homebrew experience worthy of the Nintendo Seal of Quality


Like fashion, what was in style years ago in gaming seems to have a way of creeping back into style over time. While the days of the platformer have been long been replaced by the FPS, devoted platformer fans continue to eat up every new release, few as they may be.

In February 2010, Retrozone began selling a game made by an incredible one man game developer called Sivak. That game is Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril. A new platformer not for Xbox Live, PSN or even for the Wii, but for the NES – the first platformer for the NES to be released on cartridge in over fifteen years.

While this is of course exciting, the NES has dozens, if not hundreds of good platformers for players to choose from already.  Why should you play Battle Kid? Read on, o seeker of knowledge!

Story

The game begins with two mysterious shadowy figures discussing the building of a power weapon called a “supermech”.

A week later, Dr. Tina Byers, a scientist at Disch Corp, receives an alarming transmission from a long abandoned place known as Fortress Il’Akab (nicknamed the Fortress of Peril). A race of wizards once lived there and filled the place with traps and dangerous creatures. An unknown group has assumed command there and is developing a supermech weapon. Dr. Byers calls in the protagonist, Timmy to infiltrate the fortress and put a stop to the group’s evil plans. Armed with a prototype battle suit and magic gloves, Timmy flies off on his ship and lands into action.

Graphics

Battle Kid is a fairly simple looking game. Sprites are all generally small and everything is very blocky, but the game is colorful and everything is quite easy to make out all of the time. Character sprites animate only slightly, but the results are a game that suffers no slowdown or sprite flickering at all.

Battle Kid is also programmed in such a way that each screen in the game is fixed in the same manner early games for the system were prior to Super Mario Bros. Move to the far edge of the screen and the entire screen will refresh and you’ll be in a new area, like in Zelda dungeons. My guess is that this was done for simplicity as coding this way would be easier and less memory taxing.

While most of the game’s visuals aren’t terribly impressive. the boss battles are rather incredible as they are screen filling and offer quite a bit of challenge, all with once again, no flicker or slowdown!

Audio

Along with the graphics, and gameplay, the coding for the music was also done by reconnaissance man Sivak, who produced some of the best original game music I’ve heard in a long time. Battle Kid’s audio is highly reminiscent of the legendary soundtracks of many Capcom NES games including DarkWing Duck and yes, Megaman. The whole thing just strikes me as the oldschool Capcom style.

The tracks you will hear are usually upbeat fast paced, giving a  frantic feeling to all the craziness that’s going on. Given how often you will die and how many times the music will thus repeat, it’s truly a blessing the music is as good as it is, as you’ll be hearing the tracks over and over…

Here is the catchy tune for the game’s first area, called “Area Zero One”.

Gameplay

Battle Kid is quite literally a mirage of gameplay styles from classics Metroid and Megaman. Timmy is armed with a standard pea-gun similar to Megaman’s buster cannon or Samus’s power beam, through the actual weapon itself appears to be Timmy’s gloves themselves. Like Megaman, Timmy can shoot three pellets at once but only to the left and right. He can jump around 3 tiles or so.
However, unlike either Metroid or Megaman, Timmy will die if hit just once. Fortunately, the game has numerous save points which double as respawn rooms upon death. Unless played on the extreme difficulties, you’ll have infinite lives and quickly realize that progression in Battle Kid attained through trial and error. Given time you will see each time you die is only when you make obvious mistakes.
Taken obviously from newer “Metroidvania” games, the game world itself is one giant castle much like in Metroid with interconnected areas. Each area has a guardian which must be defeated to progress. Like the areas themselves, the bosses can only be defeated though learning to avoid mistakes in the trial and error process while exploiting openings. If this doesn’t sound like it would be fun, don’t worry. Much like in Megaman 9 or other “difficult” games, once you do beat the parts that gave up so much trouble, the feeling of success is  all the reward in itself.

Controls

Battle Kid works so well on the NES because it’s controls are so well suited to the NES controller layout and are intuitive and all  you could ask for from a platformer game such as this. The controls are neither too stiff or too sensitive; a real feat for a homebrew platformer!

D-pad: Movement
B: Fire peashooter
A: Jump
Select: Cycle through available items
Start: Pause/Menu

Frustration

Battle Kid, born out of the PC freeware game I Wanna Be the Guy, is hard. Damn hard. You die in one hit, the game requires perfect timed jumps, save rooms are somewhat infrequent, and the game is more or less a test of patience as much as it is a test of skill. Battle Kid is most definitely only for the most hardcore of players.  Luckily, there is a password system, so after progressing to new areas, writing down a simple and easy to read password will allow you to pick up where you left off next time you play. Battle Kid is difficult, but it is definitely possible with practice.

Availability & Price

Battle Kid is only available through Retrzone for $30. Despite fan requests for a version on Wiiware, PSN, Xbox Live or other services, Battle Kid remains an NES exclusive due to an exclusive contract with Retrozone. Still, exclusivity contracts in recent years have been known to fizzle out in time, so who knows what the future will hold? For now though, dust off that grey box, a new game awaits!

History

A homebrew project that started in October, 2008, Battle Kid marks the first major platformer release for the NES since Sunday Funday in 1995. Prior to making this game, Sivak had done small, simple games to help grasp the concepts of NES programming. After making three such games, Sivak decided to try something much bigger. Close to a year of programming later, everything was done and the game itself was officially released on February 22, 2010.
After Battle Kid was released, it quickly sold out due to high demand. Amongst the initial 100 copies that were sold, 30 were accidentally prototype builds which Sivak claims are 98% the same as the final 1.0 build. A few months after the initial release, a second batch was produced and sold without manuals. Eventually, a bug fixed 1.10 was sold and is currently the only version for sale on Retrozone.
On May 12, 2010, Sivak announced Battle Kid 2: Moutain of Torment. The currently unfinished game should be out sometime mid 2011. Keep an eye out for it, as it promises more Battle Kid white knuckle action!
Original Advertising
Check out the original trailer for Battle Kid put up by Sivak prior to the release of the game.

Overall

Good

  • Excellent soundtrack
  • The first “full” NES game in 15 years
  • Fast, frantic and addictive gameplay
  • Password system characters are easy to read and short to write down and reenter.
  • Sivak is awesome

Bad

  • Battle Kid can be overly frustrating
  • Almost guaranteed you’ll need a turbo fire controller to play this
  • $30 may seem a bit pricy for an NES game
  • Everything is very simplistic, even for NES standards

Conclusion

Battle Kid may be a new game, but it is firmly planted amongst other hardcore retro games and would be impossible to point out to the casual viewer. This is a game that comes highly recommend for hardcore gamers only; those inexperienced with platformers would be much better off sticking with the usual suspects like Mario.

$30 may seem like a high price for an NES game, but remember that your money helps support endeavors such as this and will hopefully inspire more people to get into NES homebrew.

All in all, Battle Kid is an amazing game, especially when you consider that it was made completely made by a single person. To put that in perspective, most games even back in the NES days were made by a team of 50 or more.

Even when compared to the best NES games, Battle Kid stands strong. Had Battle Kid actually come out in the 1980s, I have no doubt that it would have been extremely popular. Battle Kid is quite simply one of the best NES games ever made.

Data

Platform: NES

Genre: Action Platformer

Release Date: February, 2010

Developer: Sivak Games

Publisher: Retrozone

Also from the developer: Nothing as of yet, but he is working on Battle Kid 2!

Game Length: a clean run? ~2 hours. Time till you’ll be good enough for that? Years.

ESRB: N/A, but would be E

Buy/Skip: Buy

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