Beyond Co-op Review: Trophy
Review by: Paul Acevedo
While the cartridge-based consoles of yesteryear have long since ceased production, a small number of dedicated indie developers continue to make games for retired systems. One such game is Trophy, a new cartridge-based game for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System from developer Gradual Games and publisher 8-Bit Legit. Trophy is also available for Xbox at a reasonable price, hence this review.
Trophy begins with an overlong introduction featuring some unpleasant-looking faux Japanese artwork. The opening narrative is way too wordy, but it boils down to an evil scientist guy on a robot planet launching a bid to conquer Earth. A good scientist and a friendly robot decide to oppose the villain by fusing into one being, the titular protagonist, Trophy. Thankfully, the in-game pixel art looks much better and more authentic than the intro, and there are no mid-game cinematics to bog things down.
Kill it with fire!
Ever since the dawn of arcade games, games have cloned and imitated more successful games. Trophy is just such a game, an unabashed Mega Man-style platformer. Players select from 8 levels and then begin a platforming adventure that closely resembles the first Mega Man in complexity and feel. The protagonist runs, jumps, climbs ladders, and cannot duck, just like Capcom's legendary Blue Bomber. A key difference, though, is that Trophy doesn’t gain weapons from defeated bosses.
Stage order still holds some importance, though, because of hidden upgrades. At least five levels contain health and weapon upgrades that are found off the beaten path (see my guide for locations). The weapon upgrades make the hero’s projectiles larger when his health is full, which helps a lot against regular enemies but not so much at bosses. Regular enemies occasionally drop trophies that refill health or extra lives. Because enemies respawn whenever the player scrolls the screen, it’s possible (and important) to farm health and lives when the going gets rough.
Speaking of rough, Trophy’s bosses are simultaneously impressive and frustrating. Graphically, these rude robots are huge and marvelous to behold. Unfortunately, they’re also ridiculous bullet sponges. Boss life meters, as seen in Mega Man and like a million other games, are sorely missed here. You can’t tell how much health a boss has; their appearance and behavior never change. It's hard to count accurately, but each boss must take 30 or more shots to defeat. The fights go on so long, half the challenge comes from the boredom of repetition.
Repetition aside, the second level’s boss (pictured above) also happens to be obnoxiously difficult. A giant magnet, it grabs players and launches them in an uncontrollable direction, often straight into the central pit. This boss is so bad that it hurts the overall quality of the game, not unlike level 3 in the original Battletoads. Even saving the magnet boss for last and collecting all the known upgrades, I still can’t beat that stupid thing. Maybe I could if it required less than a million billion bullets to kill it.
Given that Trophy is a modern NES game first and an Xbox game second, it lacks some of the bells and whistles that retro releases often offer on today's consoles. There are no widescreen borders, for instance. Not a dealbreaker, but the sky-colored borders sometimes make it difficult to tell where the edges of the screen lie. There’s no saving, either – you get a password whenever you run out of lives. Passwords are a hassle in any era, especially given that some NES games do support saving. That said, the passwords here make it easy for Achievement hunters to get all but one Achievement right away, which is handy if you’re not intent on legitimately beating the game.
Gradual Games and 8-Bit Legit’s Trophy is a pretty good retro platformer that gets let down by its poor boss fights. If the battles didn’t last so horrendously long and the magnet boss wasn’t so frustrating, this game would be an easy recommendation. The Mega Man-style gameplay is challenging but fun, the backgrounds are nicely detailed, and some levels even feature parallax scrolling. Buy this game if you’re craving a nut-kicking NES experience on Xbox or plan to use the password system for Achievements. I’ll be hoping for a sequel with better boss battles and, perhaps, a greater variety of weapons to wield.
Our Rating: 3 out of 5
The Co-Op Experience:
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.