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Yars Rising

Yars Rising Preview: The Metroidvania before Metroid and Castlevania makes its return

We've been hands-on with WayForward's version of the Atari 2600 title to see how it has been adapted to suit modern gameplay styles and design.

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I'm not a huge fan of the current remastering and remaking trend, as I believe that publishers are using it as a way to abuse consumers and generate a quick buck. Whether it's Naughty Dog's The Last of Us re-releases, Nintendo's current HD efforts, Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy collection, there are a slate of remasters and remakes that feel either pointless or so poorly handled that they are practically of a criminal quality. But just because I take this stance doesn't mean that I don't see the value in remasters and remakes too.

Atari is one of the better examples of a company using remastering and remaking in a positive way. The famed game company has been asking developers to bring to life titles that many consumers will either never have heard of or never got the chance to play. The next example of such is Yars Rising coming from WayForward, with this being a modernised update of the 1982 Atari 2600 title Yars' Revenge. I never had the chance to play that game on the Atari 2600 as I was 16 years away from even being born, which is why this stands out as a worthwhile version of that classic game since it actually changes pretty much every part of it.

I've had the chance to get a brief taste of Yars Rising recently at Summer Game Fest, where I got to experience a few of the boss fights, push the platforming to the test, and get a teaser of the many abilities and minigames on offer too.

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For anyone unaware of Yars Rising, this is a game that revolves around the character of Emi Kimura, a hacker who is tasked with infiltrating a corporation called QoTech for a client. The idea is that you use Emi's skills to explore this corporation's headquarters, unlocking new areas and abilities along the way, all while piecing together a narrative that delves into QoTech's darker and hidden side. You might already be inferring that this is a Metroidvania, and it is, but I'm trying not to refer to it as such since the original game debuted before the first Metroid or Castlevania title.

The gameplay works from a 2D side perspective. You move through a level, leaping over and clambering under obstacles and occasionally even using 2.5D elements that allow you to fade into the background to utilise some stealth elements and systems too. This is on top of earning a few combat and attack mechanics as the game progresses, allowing you to directly confront some enemies for minor and usually quite straightforward combat. As the story progresses and you reach new areas, you'll discover new abilities, like a jetpack to ascend to previously unreachable heights, most of which is acquired by finding terminals to hack that transport you into an arcade minigame that feels like it belongs on the Atari 2600. Some of these may introduce mechanics found in Space Invaders or Galaga, whereas others might tend toward Brick Breaker, as a couple of examples. Whatever the case, they're usually a lot of fun to chip away at for five minutes while scratching any retro itch you may have.

So, even though this game does transcend the Metroidvania style, it is still, in many respects, a Metroidvania. And quite a straightforward one at that. This isn't a game that's going to have you banging your head against a wall attempting to solve an overarching puzzle as is the case in Blasphemous or making you stress over being hunted by a deadly enemy like in Metroid Dread. It's more akin to an arcade Metroidvania, one suited for newer and older players alike.

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Talking about deadly and powerful enemies, there are a few boss encounters that revolve around putting your newfound abilities to the test. I had the luxury to have a crack at a few of these to see how they differ, and each was mechanically and visually very unique, each posing their own kind of threat and challenge that required a bit of ingenuity to overcome. I won't say that they were 'hard', but they were definitely fun to battle, as seems to be the theme with Yars Rising as a whole: a more accessible arcade-inspired Metroidvania experience.

As we've seen with other remakes from Atari's portfolio, Yars Rising isn't just a mechanically very different game, it's also now a visual treat. Not only is there great anime-inspired art and level design, but there are voiced and drawn cutscenes using a pure anime style that add a lot to the experience. Yes, it's very different to the original game, and if that bothers you, I have some good news, you can play the original Yars' Revenge here by accessing it from the main menu too.

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While I only got a taste of Yars Rising in this preview session, it did come across as one of Atari's better modern adaptations. WayForward has clearly had a lot of creative freedom with how they approach suiting this title for the current age of gaming, and for the most part it works. It's fun, colourful, and most importantly, still feels like an arcade game in many instances, an arcade game that pays homage to its trailblazing original with delightful minigames and a retro level design. Whether this will be enough to carry Yars Rising through its full duration, we'll find out come September 10 when it debuts on PC and consoles.

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