The Messenger (2018 video game)
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One|
The Messenger is a side-scrolling action-platformer, inspired by the classic Ninja Gaiden series. Players control a ninja known as "The Messenger" as he goes on a quest to deliver a scroll. The Messenger initially possesses a technique called "Cloudstepping", which allows him to perform an extra jump in mid-air after attacking an enemy, object, or projectile. As the game progresses, the Messenger gains new abilities such as climbing walls, gliding in the air, long-range shuriken attacks, and using a grappling hook to propel himself through obstacles and enemies. By collecting Time Shards earned by defeating enemies or hitting lamps, the player can purchase additional upgrades such as health bonuses or extra attack moves. If the player dies, however, a demon named Quarble will appear and automatically claim any Time Shards the player collects as payment for a short amount of time.
The game initially presents itself as a linear level-based adventure split across two eras; the past, which is presented with 8-bit graphics and audio, and the future, which uses 16-bit presentation. Later on, however, the game becomes a Metroidvania-style game, in which the player revisits past eras in any order and direction in order to find key items. In this section of the game, the player can use special warps to instantly move between the past and present, instantly changing the layout of each level and allowing them to access new areas. Hidden in some areas are green medallions, earned by completing a challenging platforming section, with a bonus unlocked for collecting all 45.
The game begins with a village of ninjas being attacked by a Demon King. It is then that a supposed "Western Hero" appears and gives a scroll to one of the surviving ninjas, appointing him as "The Messenger" and telling him to deliver it to the top of a mountain. During his journey, the Messenger is aided by a mysterious blue-robed shopkeeper, who provides him with upgrades, and a demon named Quarble, who helps to save him from death. After traveling through various areas and meeting a variety of foes turned friend, the Messenger arrives at the Tower of Time and encounters more blue-robed figures, who send him 500 years into the future to defeat the Demon King's general, Barma'thazël. Upon doing so, the Messenger loops around the world to the ninja village, where he, having reached the point of a cycle where he becomes the Western Hero himself, passes the scroll onto a new Messenger and takes up the role of a shopkeeper providing him with upgrades.
When this new hero ends up dying due to the previous shopkeeper's negligence, however, the blue-robes aim to break the cursed cycle, tasking the Messenger with collecting the notes of a mysterious music box in the Tower of Time. After the Messenger succeeds in this task, defeating the Demon King in the process, it is revealed that the music box is the prison of a man known as the Phantom who had become afflicted with a curse and created the time-traveling scroll in an attempt to stop it. This resulted in a 500-year-old mission passed down to several Messengers from various eras. Venturing inside the music box, the Messenger finds the Phantom, defeats the curse possessing him, and rescues him. The curse breaks loose, but the Messenger and the blue-robes team up together to destroy it, putting an end to the curse.
Sabotage Studio is an indie development studio based in Quebec City founded by Thierry Boulanger and Martin Brouard in 2016. The Messenger was their first finished project, releasing on Microsoft Windows and Nintendo Switch on August 30, 2018, PlayStation 4 on March 19, 2019 and Xbox One on June 25, 2020. The game's score was composed by Eric W. Brown, better known as by his alias as chiptune-composer Rainbowdragoneyes and as a member of the bands Nekrogoblikon, The Dread Crew of Oddwood, Dr. Zilog, and Swashbuckle. Each track was made in both 8-bit NES and 16-bit Sega Genesis styles, made by Famitracker and DefleMask respectively. The soundtrack release also featured bonus tracks by Keiji Yamagishi.
|Nintendo World Report||10/10|
The Messenger received "generally favorable reviews" according to Metacritic.
GameSpot liked the dialogue, liking the self-aware tone it took, saying, "The excellent writing keeps things lively and fresh... regularly riffing on action-platformer tropes through the ninja warrior's conversations with various characters". Destructoid praised the controls, feeling they were "tight and responsive, even in handheld mode on the Switch’s tiny Joy-Con. I was able to make my ninja leap from platform to platform with ease". Kat Bailey of USgamer enjoyed the 8-bit art and chiptune score, calling it "an outstanding achievement in artistic design".
While feeling he could be a nuisance, Nintendo Life thought Quarble was an interesting way of replacing the lives system, describing it as "a nuisance to be sure, but a charming way of punishing players for their mistakes." Nintendo World Report wrote that the constantly evolving moveset kept the player engaged in the combat, saying it was "a continual impressive trajectory that is an absolute blast to experience". IGN disliked the transition to 16-bit worlds, feeling hurt the game's pacing, describing the additions as "padding the back half with repetitive backtracking and boring fetch quests".
VentureBeat praised the art, singling out the backgrounds as "gorgeous" and noting how The Messenger had a "distinct feel that goes beyond typical video game cliches". Game Informer's Brian Shea enjoyed the bosses of the game, writing that, "each boss challenges you in unique ways, ranging from massive monsters with lasers and projectiles to smaller adversaries that jump around the screen and attack you up close". Polygon liked the end of the game, but felt it took too long for the game to reach its stride, "The Messenger gets better with each hour, but that means that to reach its best moments, you have to muscle through some pretty familiar and blunt old-school game design".
At The Game Awards 2018, it was nominated for "Best Independent Game" and "Best Debut Indie Game", winning the latter. It was also nominated for "Best Debut" with Sabotage at the Game Developers Choice Awards, and for the G.A.N.G. / MAGFEST People's Choice Award at the 2019 G.A.N.G. Awards. The PlayStation 4 version won the award for "Control Design, 2D or Limited 3D" at the 2020 NAVGTR Awards, whereas its other nominations were for "Control Precision" and "Original Light Mix Score, New IP".
A prequel titeld Sea of Stars, was announced in March 2020. Sabotage Studio crowdfunded the game via Kickstarter, and it was set to be released in 2022 for PC and consoles. Unlike The Messenger, Sea of Stars is a turn-based role-playing video game.
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