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The Messenger – Brings A Game-Changing Ninja Experience to PAX East 2018

The Messenger

If you are an avid follower of gaming circles, there is a very high likelihood that you have heard of The Messenger. Like the ninja it focuses on, The Messenger, alongside the team at Canadian-focused Sabotage Studios have been making leaps and bounds, since the game’s announcement earlier this year.

The early-impressions of the game garnered not only the attention of the gamers but also the attention of the world-renowned game publisher, Devolver Digital. Devolver has been pushing the game hard, promoting and supporting the title far and wide. At PAX East 2018, The Messenger was featured at the Indie Megabooth, becoming one of the busiest booths at the 4-day convention.

Coming into it, I had heard about the game but wanted to be surprised when I played it at Pax East. After a 20 minute demo, I was left convinced that The Messenger is a game-changer in retro-inspired games and the genre.

Making my way through the crowds, I sat down at a station and began my demo. As expected, the story begins with the telling of a great evil that ravaged the land, sending it into darkness. Brave warriors fought back against the evil, and while they succeeded it came at the grave expense of great loss and destruction.

While the evil has been vanquished, there is a great fear that it will come again. Players begin as a  ninja, part of a clan that is constantly training for the day that evil returns. It has been some time, and the nameless ninja finds himself bored. Loathing the same routine, he and his clan are summoned to their master. Just as they begin their daily briefing, fire erupts from the sky and demons violently erupt from the flames.

In an instant, most of the squad is wiped out and the ninja’s master is mortally wounded. A rogue warrior emerges from the West, fighting off the demons and forcing them to retreat. Your home in ruins and your squad wiped out, this warriors tasks you with a special scroll. You must venture across your cursed world to deliver this scroll to someone who could potentially stop the demons for good. You will travel the highest mountains, the lowest valleys, the widest oceans, and the deepest of caves. You are The Messenger.

From that point, the game began. From the instant I began playing, I remarked at how keenly polished the feel of the game was. The Messenger moved extremely sharply, with just the right amount of kinetic energy and momentum. He was neither too light or too heavy. He didn’t feel fidgety and he didn’t feel like a tank. He felt like a fine-tuned balance between jumping and moving.

As I made my way through the demo, I encountered my first few enemies. The Messengers can swipe his blade while moving, and use a finite number of shurikens. Within moments, I was already greatly impressed by the audio and visual presentation, as a rocking 8bit soundtrack accompanied the NES-era graphics. I platformed through the caves, making use of timing and speed, to successfully navigate the obstacles. Eventually, I came across a gift shop, which upgraded my abilities.

In the gift shop, the shop merchant was completely self-aware. The shopkeeper mentioned how we were not only in a game but also in a demo that was showcasing a sampling of what to expect. The shopkeeper provided more dead-pan humor, which certainly gave me quite a chuckle.

As I proceed through the level, however, I was greeted with another surprise. A small portal appeared in front of me. It was unavoidable, but when I jumped into it, the entire game changed.

Suddenly, the game received a graphics and audio upgrade. Visually, the game went from an 8-bit NES look to 16-bit Sega Genesis graphics. The simple chiptunes stepped up from simple sound to a full-fledged Genesis bass. The Messenger himself even had more detail and expression. In an instant, the game had changed into something entirely new. It looked, sounded, and played like a dream. Throughout the rest of my demo, the game would utilize this mechanic to optimum effect.

Switching through the different gameplay styles resulted in being able to successfully navigate particular puzzles and obstacles. Jumping into a portal a certain way would allow me to go through a previously blocked path. Using these portals was essential for navigation. As I fought enemies and leaped across stages, I couldn’t help but highly respect this level morphing mechanic, as well as the clever level design.

In the interest of time, one of the members at the booth placed a code into the game and teleported me one of the game’s first bosses. Another warrior with a companion stepped forth. Once again, he gave me quite the chuckle, referencing at the player’s intention and recognizing that he was a boss.

He was tricky, firing balls of fire at me and flying around the stage using melee attacks. However, after some time, I was able to use my blade, and shurikens, to successfully dispatch him. It was a good, lean boss fight. With the boss slain, the demo concluded.

As my time with The Messenger concluded, I had a moment to talk to one of the developers of the game. Paraphrasing, “The Messenger represents a celebration of the 1990’s era platform. The Messenger is a childhood dream, born out of the wild imaginations of the creative director, who was constantly fascinated by the hidden, concealed warrior of the ninja. Games like Ninja Gaiden and Shinobi stirred great inspiration within the director, and the team, eventually becoming what The Messenger is striving to be.”

With The Messenger coming this year, that dream looks to be fulfilled.

Based on what I played, The Messengers doesn’t look to be just a great game but a game-changer. It’s extremely polished gameplay is unlike anything I have played, it’s presentation celebrated what has come before, and the story looks to be fascinating as well as funny. There are games that are great, and those that break the status quo into something brand new. The Messenger looks to be revolutionary.

The Messenger will be released on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch in 2018.

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