I’m no stranger to the term “retro”. Review enough indie games and you’re bound to come across a developer or two who use the word to describe why their game is so brilliant. In practice though, this tends to result in a game with an hour or two of simplistic gameplay, complete with standard pixel art and a boring, repetitive chiptune soundtrack slapped on top.

But Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril is different. This is a true retro experience, warts and all. This shouldn’t surprise you, considering it’s a port of a real NES homebrew game released in 2010.

Why I’m only now finding out that people are still making cartridge games for the Nintendo Entertainment System is anyone’s guess. But, I digress.

In Battle Kid, you play as Timmy, an unremarkable student in the Disch Research Facility’s prestigious combat training program. His former friend, Chester, was kicked off the show for cheating and is now back for revenge. It’s up to you to stop it by traveling to the eponymous Fortress of Peril and fighting off the waves of enemies that live there.

As a story, there is nothing exciting about it. It’s there to just set up the action though. In fact, the game itself makes this clear by including an arcade mode that will automatically skip most cutscenes.

Focusing on the gameplay ends up being the right choice because, simply put, it’s awesome. Battle Kid is your quintessential Metroidvania and includes everything you’d expect from a game that fits that description.

The Fortress of Peril is an absolute maze, full of different enemies, bosses, and new items to collect. There are a ton of dead ends as some paths are inaccessible without the correct keys or abilities. It’s huge too, with the game comprising over 500 different screens.

They are all beautifully designed by the way. Battle Kid absolutely nails the 8-bit art to deliver something vibrant and colorful and that wouldn’t look out of place in the mid-1980s. The massive old-school borders are just the icing on the cake. And the soundtrack is even better. It’s loud and piercing and exactly what you’d expect from an NES game about a dangerous fortress full of goons. It actually changes between areas to fit the theme too.

battle kid fortress of peril exam 2

It should surprise no one that Battle Kid is actually very difficult. You’ll have to dodge waves of enemies, often while tackling some pretty tough platforms. And that’s before you even reach the bosses, where the difficulty is heightened even further. There’s also no temporary invulnerability, so expect to get hit multiple times in quick succession.

And if you’re a punishment glutton, you can increase the difficulty all the way to “unfair”, which gives you 1 HP and a death cap of 1.

It’s safe to say you’re going to die. A lot.

And it’s good. In fact, I enjoy the no-frills challenge that Battle Kid offers. But it is here that the limitations of the original software begin to become clearer.

Most notably, Battle Kid completely lacks any type of autosave, preferring (or being forced) to use the old password system which has been irrelevant since around 1996. If you’ve never encountered this before, it means you’ll need to find a checkpoint and then write down the generated password if you want to go back to your save.

It’s a system that will probably be nostalgic for some, but ultimately a system that should have been left in the past in its place. It’s cumbersome and boring to use, especially in a game as difficult as this. If you’re like me, you’ll have to beat the same boss multiple times because you’ll probably end up dying a few screens later before you find another checkpoint. And believe me, it’s not fun.

battle kid fortress of peril review 3

It also lacks any kind of button mapping, which is a shame because the current button layout, while understandable on stock hardware, feels counter-intuitive on a modern controller. You will shoot with A and jump with B, but it seems like it should be the other way around. You’ll also have to put up with it, unless you manually reassign the buttons in the Xbox settings. This seems like such an unnecessary step though, and I see no reason why this feature couldn’t have been included in the ported version.

These two questions do not, however, tip the final verdict. Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril is still a brilliant little blast from the past. It doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel, and it basically offers nothing you haven’t seen before. Instead, it tries to deliver a solid slice of nostalgia and a decent challenge. And on these two points, it is quite successful. Battle Kid looks, sounds and plays like something straight out of the 1980s, and I encourage everyone to check it out. The Fortress of Peril awaits you…

Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril is available on the Xbox Store

I’m no stranger to the term “retro”. Review enough indie games and you’re bound to come across a developer or two who use the word to describe why their game is so brilliant. In practice though, this tends to result in a game with an hour or two of simplistic gameplay, complete with standard pixel art and a boring, repetitive chiptune soundtrack slapped on top. But Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril is different. This is a true retro experience, warts and all. This shouldn’t surprise you, considering this is a port of a real NES homebrew game that…

Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril Critical

Battle Kid: Fortress of Peril Critical

2022-05-08

Jacob Stokes





Advantages:

  • A real retro experience that’s challenging
  • Brilliantly Designed – The Fortress of Peril is massive
  • Looks and sounds great

The inconvenients:

  • The story is nothing special
  • Password system leads to frustration
  • Lack of button mapping

Information:

  • Many thanks for the free copy of the game, go to – 8 Bit Legit
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Reviewed version – Xbox One on Xbox Series X
  • Release date – April 15, 2022
  • Introductory price from – £8.39


TXH-score



3.5/5

Advantages:

  • A real retro experience that’s challenging
  • Brilliantly Designed – The Fortress of Peril is massive
  • Looks and sounds great

The inconvenients:

  • The story is nothing special
  • Password system leads to frustration
  • Lack of button mapping

Information:

  • Many thanks for the free copy of the game, go to – 8 Bit Legit
  • Formats – Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
  • Reviewed version – Xbox One on Xbox Series X
  • Release date – April 15, 2022
  • Introductory price from – £8.39

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