Total Games Played
Played in 2023
Recently Played See More
Recently Reviewed See More
This review contains spoilers
I do not like Shadow the Hedgehog and yes, I’m referring to the character. I made this explicitly clear in my review of his debut title Sonic Adventure 2 because Sonic’s negative mode contrast doppelganger has always left a bad taste in my mouth. This should come as a surprise to anyone because Shadow is a character that catered to my age demographic during his prime. It’s hard to believe now, but the cultural landscape of the 2000s was oozing with edge. The trendy sports and reality television showcased a potential for people to be subjected to grievous pain, “Crawling”, “Bodies”, and “Down with the Sickness” were songs that were taken seriously, the bar for comedy was set to be as taboo-breaking as humanly possible, and the internet was an uncharted frontier of cutting-edge content that shocked society with both its breadth and graphicness. Compared to how restrained and socially-conscious everything has been since the mid-2010s, the years of my childhood and adolescence feel like a bygone era. Shadow the Hedgehog was designed with the intention of remastering Sonic for the new, edgy millennium, and the character successfully resonated with the youths of that time as planned. Even when I was a kid who was supposed to, however, I always thought that he was an uncharismatic jerk whose presence created a storm cloud of unnecessary, overwrought melodrama over the Sonic universe. This is why I avoided his self-titled offshoot game released in 2005 even though I was meant to eat this game up like an all-you-can-eat buffet. It didn’t help the game’s case that the general consensus was that it dug a deeper hole for 3D Sonic’s less-than-savory reputation. So you see, reviewing Shadow the Hedgehog is not a retrospective of how I perceive this game now than when I was a child like the previously released 3D Sonic games. It’s instead an instance of morbid curiosity finally instilled into me as an adult to find out if I was right in passing on this game long ago. God help me.
Shadow certainly is the most interesting Sonic character on the basis of background and moral standing. He’s got a checkered past, and the most damning thing about it is that he hasn’t the foggiest idea of what it consists of. Shadow the Hedgehog continues the same amnesia-addled mystery narrative that Sonic Heroes started with the character’s general uncertainty, and his past is only hazy to Shadow because the player is already likely privy to it from the events of Sonic Adventure 2. The only part of the mystery that will have the player scratching their heads is how Shadow still exists considering we all watched him perish in the cosmos over Earth’s orbit. Shadow’s mission in his eponymous title is to unravel the mystery of his existence, and our mission as the player is to see how deeply the developers retconned the climax of Sonic Adventure 2. All the while, Shadow must contend with an all-out war on Earth between the humans, a plague of black aliens, and an irate Dr. Eggman in the background. Shadow’s road to self-discovery is going to be a bumpy one, to say the least.
Shadow’s journey is also going to be rife with complications because he controls like absolute dogshit. People who write off all of Sonic’s 3D outings often claim that the shifty camera is the prime culprit in dooming the series to horrid mediocrity. Still, while there is some understandable merit to this criticism, no one took fault with Sonic’s controls (or at least not for all the 3D entries leading up to this point). In both Sonic Adventure titles, Sonic speeding through the levels was as smooth as a syrup enema, hence another reason why the transition to 3D for the blue blur was actually less muddled than most remember. If this is the 3D Sonic title that triggered the downfall of Sonic’s mobility for every subsequent 3D entry, I find it funny that he wasn’t even the one who caused it. Shadow moves with the grace of a college freshman girl drunk on a fifth of mango pineapple flavored Svedka, or to say that his general movement has zero amount of grace. This game’s version of Shadow would fail a sobriety test because he struggles to keep himself on a straight path. Any intentional deviations from a direct route result in swerving around with jagged dramatism, as if strafing while running was another aspect of Shadow’s amnesiac stupor. Shadow’s sludgy rate of acceleration hardly puts him on equal standing with Sonic’s lively speed capabilities either. While Shadow will not cooperate with the player, somehow, he will still constantly bump into enemies on the field as if his wonky trajectory is due to him being magnetized to them. Thankfully, Shadow only loses a modest sum of rings upon being hit as opposed to the standard penalty of losing all of them, but is this change due to the developers being fully aware that the player will encounter problems? What gives, Sega? Shadow’s lack of stability with his general movement is inexcusable and is the primary factor in the game’s poor quality.
Even though it doesn’t make a lick of sense, I guess every player should be slightly relieved because speed is not the name of the game in Shadow the Hedgehog. That is, unless the player is content with the game’s “neutral route.” The range of the six levels per campaign depends on Shadow’s actions in each level. A moral choice mechanic is implemented for each level in Shadow the Hedgehog, and a single campaign’s trajectory depends on the specific task completed. Three choices are presented to Shadow; hero, dark, and neutral, and the two opposite ends of that spectrum involve aligning with either Sonic and a number of his friends or the intimidating leader of the black aliens. Both objectives will be presented to Shadow near the beginning of each level with fairly clear instructions from either party, and Shadow will have to consistently cease his rate of speed to make a more meticulous effort in completing either task. Determining the route of Shadow’s journey on this basis is the most engaging and unique mechanic of the game, and strictly limiting the player’s route based on player choice is a great way to facilitate player choice. In saying this, it could’ve been executed a little smoother. At several different points in each level, the opposing faction of whichever task the player has assigned still pops their head up and automatically changes Shadow’s objective to their request. The player can change this in the pause menu but as we’ve learned from Ocarina of Time’s Water Temple, pausing the game to swap something out is the most vexing method of manual change. Besides that, both factions of “good” or “bad” irritate me to no end because Shadow will practically be accompanying them through the entire level. I’m either subjected to the inane chatter of a high-pitched Tails or Charmy the Bee or getting swimmer’s ear from Dr. Klaww in the shape of an evil octopus. Together, it’s like listening to a Brokencyde album, and that’s just gross.
There are a total of 23 levels in Shadow the Hedgehog, almost twice as many as the individual ones in the first Sonic Adventure title. However, the player will only experience six of them per campaign without the option to retrace one’s steps for a different outcome once the trajectory has been set. Let me just say that I fully appreciate the variety across the 22 levels featured in the game after being driven mad by repeating the same fourteen levels over four campaigns in Sonic Heroes. The player might get sick to death of playing the opening level of Westopolis, but at least there is a one in three chance that the following level will be fresh. However, until the levels were watered down and corrupted by both Team Rose and Team Chaotix respectively, the levels in Sonic Heroes were utterly enjoyable through and through despite the herculean length of some. Shadow the Hedgehog’s levels range from being promising to downright insufferable. Many level motifs are Sonic Adventure 2 reunions where we see the fallout of both Prison Island in radiated ruin, as well as some subsector of the Space Colony Ark. Crazy Gadget was an exemplary space level compared to standing and waiting to use the crumbling rubble of the ark to fall and use as platforms in Cosmic Fall. Glyphic Canyon levels offer some loops and other classic Sonic level tropes, but Shadow’s restrained velocity doesn’t result in the same electric thrills that result in Sonic blazing through them. I somewhat enjoy the vehicle-intensive levels because the hopping mech and military car somehow control better than Shadow does. I also admire Lava Shelter because it managed not to fuck up the grind rail gameplay. On the other hand, I loathe any level where Shadow has to follow an airship and destroy it, or kill every enemy in the level. Who thought the return of that god-awful Team Chaotix mission with the candles was a good idea? There simply aren’t too many exemplary standouts among the pack to compensate for the substandard ones.
Then there’s the other aspect of Shadow’s gameplay that everyone knew an entire paragraph would be dedicated to because it was the major selling point of the game. Shadow’s role as Sonic’s edgy rival in Sonic Adventure 2 buttered up all the acne-ridden pre-teens enough, but it was time to dial his coolness radar all the way up to eleven. When I saw my first indication that Shadow was getting his own game on the front cover of a 2005 issue of Nintendo Power, I couldn't believe my eyes. Not only was Shadow revved up on a bitchin Harley like he’s James fucking Dean, but he was holding a fucking hand cannon in his left hand. I was gobsmacked. Despite my shocked incredulity, what I was witnessing was true. Guns are a main mechanic in Shadow the Hedgehog, the cherry on top of any edgy sundae. Shadow will pick up the misplaced firearms from enemies he has vanquished and use them of his own volition until the ammunition runs out. If that happens, picking up another gun to use is as simple as replacing a stick to walk with on a hiking trail. The guns range from pistols and AKs to the more fictional space blasters usually found in the scrap remains of Eggman’s robots. As fucking sick as Shadow looks strapped with a loaded gun, unfortunately, it all falls apart in execution thanks to the awful controls. Good luck aiming without a targeting mechanic while Shadow is zooming around like a hornet huffing raid fumes. The player will have to resort to primarily using the guns for combat because the trademark homing attack is both pitiful and unresponsive in this game.
Guns weren’t only introduced to make Shadow the Hedgehog moisten the pants of pre-adolescents or test the limits of the new E10 rating introduced by the ESRB that the game ultimately received upon release. They are indicative of the more mature direction the developers decided to take for a more complex and dignified character like Shadow the Hedgehog snickers loudly to self upon typing this statement. Or at least this was the developer's sincere intentions that faltered into being Shadow the EDGEhog, a hilarious observational joke that absolutely NO ONE has ever made. In addition to the guns, Shadow also swears like the big man he is. None of these utterances surpass baby’s first curse words like “hell” and “damn,” but I’m still in disbelief that these words are present in any licensed Sonic property. Shadow asking himself where that DAMN fourth Chaos emerald is always got a chuckle out of me, and the same goes for when he tells Eggman he’s “going straight to hell” as a threat before one of their fights. My favorite unintentionally(?) funny line is when Shadow uses the age-old simile of taking candy from a baby to convey how easy taking another Chaos Emerald will be. Then, he has to elaborate that he condones such an action because he’s the baddest mofo alive. Being a grouchy misanthrope is one thing, but this crosses the line. Who wrote this shit?
So does Shadow the Hedgehog’s narrative offer anything of real substance besides abysmal attempts at making Shadow seem cool? Well, the myriad of alternate endings to each campaign should at least make the player somewhat curious. Shadow’s journey to discover the truth leads him to the shocking revelation that he’s a clone of the original Shadow made by Eggman. Or at least this piece of information is only shocking to Shadow and anyone who hasn’t played Sonic Heroes, and that game revealed this twist with much more subtlety. The seven Chaos Emeralds are still out and about for all megalomaniacs in the Sonic universe, and the three general paths revolve around who gets to reap the benefits of Shadow’s emerald hunting throughout the story. The neutral path sees Shadow selfishly seizing all the Chaos Emeralds for himself to truly fulfill his arc of being the “ultimate lifeform” he touted for himself in Sonic Adventure 2. Even the hero and dark routes lead to practically the same outcome, with the only deviation of who Shadow screws over. He leaves the Black Arms leader to rot in the true hero story, and the same fate befalls Sonic in the dark route. In one ending, Shadow and Gamma kill Eggman execution-style as the screen fades to black. Jesus Christ, Sega. Only in the semi-hero ending does Shadow feel remorseful for his past (I don’t forgive you, Shadow). I am not willing to go to the lengths needed to unlock the absolute ultimate true ending where Shadow uses all of the Chaos Emeralds to destroy the alien menace with an audience of all of Sonic and his friends seeing this act of true altruism unfold in awe. It involves objectives needed to be done across every single level that I do not have the strength or patience to stomach. I will gladly settle for Shadow’s newfound confidence in whichever choice he makes.
At the end of the day, Shadow the Hedgehog is difficult to take seriously. Instead of providing a deep, profound character study for Shadow, the result of Sega putting Sonic’s hottest new character in the limelight made an already flawed character a total laughingstock. The story, the gun mechanics, and the brooding presentation reek of trying too hard to appeal to a specific age demographic that it comes off as pandering. Still, with this game as my example, I think the true culprit of 3D Sonic’s downfall is a rushed development period. This has been well documented with future 3D Sonic bombs, and one could make an example out of Sonic Heroes released before this game. Shadow the Hedgehog, in my mind, is the first truly bad 3D Sonic game, but it’s not because the game lacks passion. Specific elements of Shadow the Hedgehog such as the malleable story trajectory are admirable, and some of the levels show real promise. If the developers had the time to hone Shadow’s shoddy controls and the way the levels juggle their objectives, Shadow the Hedgehog could’ve been a solid 3D Sonic game. With its overall direction in mind, I’m not sure that even a competent Shadow the Hedgehog would’ve won me over, but at least there would have been a dedicated number of Sonic fans defending it.
This review contains spoilers
Over the past few years, I’ve used a plethora of positive adjectives to describe Dark Souls. Deep, rich, revolutionary, challenging, spell-binding, sublime, life-affirming: these words only scratch the surface of the exaltation I’ve given to FromSoft’s seminal action-RPG series. However, one delectable description I would NEVER earnestly give Dark Souls under any context is cute. Actually, the franchise is fairly grotesque. The franchise prides itself on upholding a grim, pensive atmosphere marked by the immense decay of the game’s world and all of its inhabitants with little hopeful reprieve. Gigantic, rabid rats, Blighttown swamp ogres, the demons residing in the volcanic ruins, to the often emaciated state of the main protagonist will all turn off each player’s collective appetites. Don’t even get me started on the pulpy, arcane grotesqueries from Dark Soul’s gothic cousin Bloodborne. In the more sexual context of the word cute, I can’t think of a better example of a moment in gaming that made everyone’s penises retract in fear and disgust like an alarmed hermit crab than the reveal of the bottom half of the supermodel spider beast Quelaag. It’s as if the developers were pulling a sick prank on the player, swiftly reminding them that nothing in Dark Souls is pretty or pristine. Fortunately, Dark Souls doesn’t have to be cute, for the impact the series has had seems to translate its idiosyncratic mechanics rather than its aesthetic attributes. Indie developer Finji decided to see what “cute Dark Souls” would look like with their 2022 title Tunic, and it translates fairly well.
I should also add that Tunic takes more than a liberal helping of elements from The Legend of Zelda as well. This second parent in Tunic’s genetic code shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the article of clothing is the dress of choice for the plucky fox protagonist depicted on the game’s cover art, mirroring the hero of time’s iconic wardrobe like an excitable kid on Halloween. Besides The Fox’s outfit as a cheeky reference to Link, Tunic’s gameplay is a marriage between Dark Souls and Zelda, which is a concise relationship because Dark Souls comprises plenty of Zelda’s gameplay attributes itself. However, I did say that Tunic’s gameplay featured a fusion from both series as opposed to sedimentary layers building onto Zelda’s gameplay supporting its descendants at the bottom. Tunic borrows the Soulslike combat, level design, and difficulty curve, but what does Zelda contribute to the game’s foundation? Tunic’s developers seem to have dipped their feet into the classic Zelda philosophy of relatively free-reign exploration, a significant mark that divides the top-down 2D games and the more linear, narrative-focused 3D titles. With this slurry of gameplay elements, the developers evidently wished to craft Tunic as a sprawling adventure title with thin limitations on roaming around the intricate world that is filled to the brim with surprises.
While Tunic’s influences are an important factor in its general makeup, my starting thesis on this game was based on how it formulated something adorable from the Dark Souls foundation that was originally glum and twistedly malformed. From the first screen of Tunic, it should be obvious how the game’s art direction diverges from any aesthetical property in Dark Souls. The fantasy land of Tunic’s setting looks like it's composed entirely of rubber along with its inhabitants but in a child-like bouncy castle way instead of its grayish organic material. It’s a wonder that enemies don’t make squeaking sounds upon being struck by The Fox’s sword. Everything from the assorted trees and tall grasses, to the steep hills, and towering structures resemble the pieces of an intricate playset. It’s reminiscent of the cartoonishly bulbous visual style Nintendo implemented for the Link’s Awakening remake on the Switch, except that Tunic doubles down on consistently depicting everything with a cherubic tint as opposed to only certain elements. Yet, all of the arcane edifices across Tunic’s world still seem grand and imposing. Tunic’s art direction strikes a tasteful balance between the strikingly sublime and the endearingly whimsical. Also, The Fox who vicariously gives the player a grand tour of this world is definitely a contender for the cutest video game protagonist next to Kirby, Yoshi, and Yoku from Yoku’s Island Express. While the visual aspects of Tunic are obviously constructed to make the game look charmingly adorable, the game’s atmosphere surprisingly exudes an ethereal mystique. Because a game that features such soft, spongy aesthetics carries this sense of wonder, it shows that Tunic’s presentation has layers.
Tunic’s taking of Zelda’s sense of exploration is readily apparent from the starting screen. The fox awakens on a beachy shore with zero context of where he is with less of a clue of which direction to take. What the player can figure out for themselves is they are in dire need of a weapon to defend themselves with, as the flopping land tadpoles and the piggish, Ganon-esque knights seen in the overworld are not the friendly sorts. This first quest to procure one’s means of both offense and defense should provoke memories of the first Legend of Zelda title, as Link is dropped into the fray of Hyrule without the necessary tools to survive. Or, it could also conjure up recollections of the Chosen Undead scurrying around the boss in the Northern Undead Asylum before being granted weapons, an opening sequence that is most certainly influenced by the initial state of vulnerability from the first Zelda game. Unlike both games, there isn’t an old man in a nearby cave to pass off his sword out of concern, nor are his devices in the close quarters of an enclosed area like the asylum in Dark Souls. The Fox has to make do with a pitiable stick as his first weapon before reaching the sacred grounds of the sword, and he doesn’t obtain his shield to accompany the sword on his opposite hand until after the first boss is defeated. The supplementary length to obtain the sword and shield is indicative of Tunic’s habit of keeping the player in the dark. Tunic is intentionally cryptic like classic Zelda and Dark Souls, but Tunic seems to amplify the esoteric elements to an absurd degree. On top of having the player roam around the map like a buzzing fly due to a lack of direction, the developers have pulled a Christian Vander (the drummer and leader of the French progressive rock band Magma) and constructed their own language to detail the game’s various attributes. Don’t bother breaking out the Rosetta Stone because it’s all a mesh of cuneiform hieroglyphics that even the developers couldn’t decipher. Of course, this chicken scratch gibberish purposefully obscures any context clues to maintain that aura of ambiguity. Because the game tears away at any hope of easy answers, every step in Tunic can be super miscalculated. I mostly appreciate the effort to foster a relatively non-linear environment ala Zelda 1, but some aspects of this direction aren’t accommodating. Because Tunic features a fixed wide-view camera perspective, it’s difficult for the player to peek at cracks to excavate in the 3D landscape, and some of them are pertinent paths to progression. Also, whenever The Fox does find himself in a cramped crevice, the silhouette the player sees doesn’t really aid in guiding them through it. Meticulously looking for the right path is difficult enough on its own.
How does one have any hope to navigate through the world of Tunic if everything seems so obtuse? Pressing the select button will pop up the game’s manual, a 56-page guide to conquering every challenge and uncovering every hidden secret. Once again, a sweet wash of nostalgia should rush through any player of a certain age because the in-game manual is an homage to the physical manuals, magazine walkthroughs, and strategy guides that gamers of yore were forced to seek out when a game threw them for a loop. The manual’s pages are strewn across Tunic’s overworld as a core collectible, and each page is stacked with hints from head-to-toe on the intricacies found in the game. It sounds like a blessing, but the rotten caveat is that most of the manual’s contents are written in the developer’s made-up mumbo-jumbo language. The manual’s details regarding the thorough history of the game’s lore, information on the various trinkets and goodies, and how to navigate through the more sprawling area of the hub and its surroundings are muddled in linguistic nonsense. Some of the contents of the manual have splotches of English so the player doesn’t have to discern the tips and tricks solely by visual context. Gee, thanks, developers. Now I’ll breeze through this game in no time. Also, a virtual manual does not translate to the same kind of utility that a physical manual did, as it’s quicker to bookmark a notable page and open it while playing a game instead of flipping through pages with the D-pad. At the end of the day, the utility of the manual is negated by the advent of the internet, the destroyer of all antiquated larks that were not available at the time when physical gaming aid was relevant. Whether or not you believe the manual is useful or not, one still can’t deny that it features some gorgeous illustrations.
Still, the manual does adequately depict each step of the game’s progression, albeit construed in an asinine manner. The fox’s first primary quest is to ring two colossal bells on opposite sides of the map. Sound familiar? As if swiping the combat and the cryptic exploration from Dark Souls wasn’t enough, Tunic also copies the game’s first quest as well. No, the player will not witness what Quelaag would look like as a buxom balloon animal complete with tasteful censorship before ringing the second bell. In fact, traveling from one side of the map to the other doesn’t display the same type of descending progression that made the bell-ringing quest from Dark Souls so invigorating either. What keeps Tunic from plunging into the cheap imitation territory is that it has constructed the same type of level progression. I’ve always been in awe of how each area of any FromSoft-developed Soulslike game treats progression and checkpoints, and it’s even more impressive when another developer implements them competently. From the starting point of an area’s shrine, Tunic’s rendition of the bonfires, checkpoints are technically dispersed via shortcuts. The fox will unlatch bridges and unlock doors after a certain point to use indefinitely if the challenges prove to be too hectic and he dies as a result. The player is met with the same level of satisfaction and relief skating past former obstacles along the way to the goal in the exact same way it’s presented in Dark Souls. As for the second quest involving procuring three differently colored jewels to open a gate, this quest is seen across so many games that no one can determine its origin point (although both Zelda and Dark Souls feature a similar quest quite often).
One thing that Tunic leaves alone is the RPG mechanics from Dark Souls. The Fox will leave behind the remnants of his mortal shell at his last place of dying, but recovering it only replenishes a small sum of money lost. Still, the gold and blue doubloons are valuable because The Fox will need a heaping amount of items to use at his disposal. Many of the items can be found in treasure chests on the field, but the player will most likely burn through them and have to purchase them from the skeletal spirit merchant found in the overworld’s windmill. It’s with this aspect of the game that the Zelda influence eclipses Dark Souls, for the plethora of items The Fox has in its inventory is meant to diversify combat and puzzle solving as opposed to being nifty in slight circumstances in Dark Souls. The phantom merchant sells offensive weapons such as firebombs and dynamite so that The Fox can blast away at groups of enemies from afar, while the freeze bomb can be used to subdue stronger singular enemies by encasing them in a coat of ice for a brief period. Fruits of the plum and berry variety restore health and magic respectively, while the more elusive hot pepper increases The Fox’s attack power. For my money, the most useful item the merchant has in stock is the decoy doll, which enemies will center on with as much focus as a cat has for a laser pointer. All of these items are meant to supplement the primary sword weapon, while the other primary weapons The Fox obtains could arguably replace the sword. The player could easily swap all of their melee eggs into the magic basket after a certain point in the game. The Magic Staff pelts enemies with an abundant amount of energy bullets while the ice daggers can freeze enemies just as effectively as the ice bomb item. Eventually, The Fox will come across a shotgun to blast away enemies with magic power at close range, and yes, the image of wee little Fox using a shotgun is as hilariously mismatched as it sounds. The Grapple Hook’s usage for traversal is fairly self-explanatory if you’ve ever played even one Zelda game, but it can also be used to lasso in enemies who annoyingly insist on attacking at long range. With one of the ability cards, the player can swap their health-restoring potions for mana restoration. The choice of magic over melee is as close as Tunic gets to a role-playing option with combat, and the pervasive range of magic items present here helped me escape my melee build comfort zone I usually abide by in Soulslike games. It reminds me more of Zelda because those games encourage using everything the player has at their disposal, while Dark Souls usually forces the player to be faithful to one play style.
I had to diversify my playstyle in Tunic more drastically because the game’s bosses are the true sources of agonizing defeat. Enemies in Tunic vary in viciousness, but each boss is a bitch and a half. The Guard Captain is a gigantic copy of his tinier minions The Fox has been fighting, so dealing with him is a cakewalk. However, the mighty mechanical duo of the Garden Knight and Siege Engine The Fox fights sequentially serve as the game’s first steep roadblocks. I blame the fixed camera for my lack of peripheral reference when it comes to dodge rolling, and shielding their attacks totally depletes all of my stamina. Soulslike bosses are challenging enough, but approaching them in Tunic in the same fashion when one’s sword and shield cannot be upgraded or replaced should be reconsidered. The offerings The Fox makes to increase his stats only do so much. This is why alternating between melee and magic is so important to succeeding with Tunic’s combat, and this especially became the case for the later bosses. The Librarian located at the peak of the Great Library barely gave me any opportunities to strike him with the sword due to him constantly hovering over the perilous arena, and the leaders of the Scavengers kept darting away from my attacks with great swiftness. Becoming accustomed to dealing out brute force and waves of magic akimbo style proved to be the only permissible method of success with Tunic’s bosses, and this mixed direction that I wasn’t used to in Dark Souls made every win a little more gratifying.
I’ve established that Tunic has substantially emulated so many properties from Dark Souls, but what about the series pension for grim outcomes to resolve an adventure? For as cute as the game is, is it merely an enchanting ruse for the game to make the gut punch of a finale more visceral? In a way, this is indeed the case. The central lore figure of Tunic’s world is the incorporeal, cerulean fox housed in the central chamber of the overworld’s map. Dividing the tall, golden doors with the first quest and placing the colored keys in the arcane contraption with the second unveil the solid layers to the apparition at the center. The towering blue fox dressed in a satin gown known as The Heir is the game’s final boss, but she is not to be faced immediately. She strikes down our hero with a swipe of her potent blade, and The Fox is reduced to a ghostly form. After this intentional failure, the spirits of the land’s former foxes hang around the grounds as the fox travels to various memorial sights of these former foxes to regain his strength in the increments of the five increasable assets. He can fight The Heir with the reduced stats he has at hand, but only the foolish would dare to do so. In fact, it’s recommended that the player take their time to exhaustively search for every one of the game’s collectibles in this purgatorial state because putting in the extra effort will mitigate fighting the final boss. If the player collects every page of the game’s manual, approaching The Heir again will result in her accepting the manual with a similar sense of glee and pride like a child gifting something hand-crafted on Mother’s Day. Completing the manual is still a bafflingly difficult task with having to dissect each of the game’s hidden codes with the “Holy Cross” (the D-pad, if that wasn’t clear). The recitable Konami code, these ain’t. Conversely, coming home empty-handed will prompt The Heir to attack with sheer force. This two-phased boss will use rapid sword swipes, energy bursts, and an unhealthy dosage of the glowing, purple corruption matter found in the Quarry to reduce The Fox’s health bar to the size of a fingernail. Tunic doesn’t offer an easy outcome either way, but I still recommend seeking out the pages for a better ending. Curing The Heir is a more interesting ending rather than the recycled Dark Souls resolution of becoming the new martyr in a cyclical process to uphold the new world, which is what happens when The Heir is defeated. Considering how the game looks, I could use something more heartwarming to cap it off.
Transforming Dark Souls into something adorably winsome was the easy aspect of Tunic. Translating all of the properties from the series was the real meat of the matter, and Tunic seems to have processed them efficiently. Still, the extent to which Tunic goes about showcasing these properties gets a tad irksome, especially in regards to obscuring information with nonsensical language along with the clashing perspective that comes with a fixed camera. Also, as the game progressed, it became evident that Tunic borrowed so much from Dark Souls that the game almost literally became Dark Souls with only a visual discernibility. The classic Zelda influence with its loose exploration limits and item management are the saving graces in Tunic that keep it from being a Dark Souls pastiche, only with a cuddly world instead of a gnarly one. At least Tunic seems to have a profound understanding of what makes Dark Souls effective, so I still left Tunic with the same sense of satisfaction.
Team Cherry ostensibly felt sorry for the Royal Waterways in that there was barely any reason to return to it after reaching the Ancient Basin from it for the first time. Hence, why they gave The Knight a sacred key to open the realm of the Godmaster located at the western outskirts of the the City of Tear’s sewer. If you thought the Colossum was the peak of endurance tests in Hollow Knight, the fourth and final DLC pack will make you forget about it in seconds. The golden, regal throne of the Godmaster involves The Knight fighting a gauntlet of the game’s bosses from both the base game and other DLC packs. There are a range of difficulty tiers like those seen in the colosseum, and the collection of bosses coincides with their relative range of formidability (ie. the first one includes the Mosscharger and Venegefly King). The Knight is provided a hot spring with a bench before the gauntlet begins, but can only heal manually with their juice supply between bouts. The Nail Masters are pleasantly surprising as the final fights of each gauntlet, so Godmaster actually provides more than enough new content to entice the player. Godmaster was a fun challenge until the third or fourth gauntlet where Nightmare King Grimm was grouped with Grey Prince Zote AND an advanced version of the final boss called “Absolute Radiance” who is a mercilessly fast as NKG is. In the mortal words of Three Six Mafia, fuck that shit. I am content with being a mere mortal man and do not wish to entertain this charade that seems to be convinced that I’m some kind of divine being.