The indie gaming space has done its best to bring back the glory days of the 80s and 90s with games like The Messenger, but oftentimes these attempts at retro revivals are touched up with a modern appeal that helps new-aged gamers to better connect with it. Former SEGA designer, Ted Sterchi, has planned to recreate the authenticity of ‘the good old days’ with Orange Island, a game made under the exact visual and audio specifications of the NES. It doesn’t get anymore retro than that!
NES platformers have a certain feel to them – a clunky, floaty feel that came with the nuance of the medium finding its bearings. Orange Island recreates this not in a bad way, but rather by reminding us of the times long past.
Each character has their own stats that creates new gaming possibilities – play as the high jumper to reach platforms above, the bow-in-hair little girl that packs the strongest punch or any of the other all-rounders. Whilst hopefully the final version of the game utilises this in imaginative ways, this still effected simple tasks in the pre-alpha demo that would make you take some time to think before blindly picking a character.
According to the Kickstarter trailer, the pre-alpha demo seems to be just the very tip of the iceberg. The start menu contains RPG-like stats and at one point, there was even as SHMUP level, so we cannot wait to see how much content the final product packs.
For anyone who grew up with or is an enthusiast of the 8 bit era, Orange Island will feel as authentic as any other NES game of the time. The spritework, colour palette, music, sound effects – they all culminate together to masterfully create a video game that can easily be passed off as having been made 30 years ago.
Speaking of music, while most of Orange Island’s soundtrack is to be composed by the game’s creator, the game will also feature a few tracks by the legendary composer, Hiroki Kikuta, known for his work on the Secret of Mana series. Whilst any of his works weren’t in the pre-alpha demo, what was featured was very catchy and upbeat, so with Kikuta involved, I have nothing but the utmost faith in Orange Island’s soundtrack.
The dialogue and characterisation is engaging and witty, whilst the setting is packed full of personality. With its bright colours and whimsical surroundings, it may be easy to think of Orange Island as just another colourful 2D platformer that lacks emotional depth, but Sterchi has promised a touching story with a deep past. Exploring all of that as a group of kids – I get some real Earthbound Beginnings vibes.
Orange Island is a promising piece of retro nostalgia that holds a lot of potential. It may not hold the attention of many modern gamers but for those who love to relive the golden days, as well as the promise of an authentic physical NES cartridge, Orange Island may well be on its way to be another NES gem.