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Celeste’s Final Challenge is Coming Soon for Free

A few months back Celeste developer Matt Thorson revealed that a new chapter is headed to the game as DLC. This final update is titled Chapter 9: Farewell, and it will be free on all platforms. Farewell will be a single, continuous chapter (no B-Side) with some new mechanics, and it’s said to be the hardest Celeste challenge yet.

We haven’t heard much about it since January, but Matt and his team are still hard at work. The official Celeste Twitter account just broke the silence to inform fans that development is “on the home stretch.” Although it won’t be out this month, it shouldn’t be much longer after that. The update also confirmed that the team is waiting to release the physical version of the game until after Farewell is completed.

Source: Celeste Official Twitter

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Celeste’s Upcoming DLC Will Put Your Platforming Skills to the Test

After teasing some farewell levels for Celeste late last year, one of the game’s co-creators, Matt Thorson, took to Twitter yesterday to detail exactly what we can expect from the upcoming DLC. Coming free to all platforms, these additional levels will be leaving the iconic strawberries behind, but they will feature a few new items and mechanics to make up for it.

Unlike the other chapters in Celeste, these levels will compose one continuous chapter and will not feature a B-side. That’s probably a good thing, as these levels are supposed to be the hardest yet, with Thorson claiming that they are “after the current hardest levels in difficulty.” There’s no word on when this DLC will be available, though unfortunately they won’t be ready in time for the game’s first anniversary on January 25th.

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Celeste Raises the Bar for Storytelling in Games

If you’re anything like me, you were probably ecstatic when Celeste got a Game of the Year nomination for The Game Awards 2018. It may not have won, but the team at Matt Makes Games did go home with two other notable awards: “Best Independent Game” and “Games for Impact.” The latter, according to the Game Awards site, is “for a thought-provoking game with a profound pro-social meaning or message.” If you’ve played Celeste or are at least familiar with its themes of struggling with depression and anxiety, you’ll know this award was very well deserved.

I’m hardly the first to write about Celeste‘s portrayal of mental illness—I’m not even the first here at Gamnesia to sing the game’s praises—but as someone deeply touched by the game due to my own anxiety, I wanted to talk about how Celeste brilliantly blends this story with its challenging gameplay, and why that hands-down makes it my game of the year.

Warning: There will be major plot spoilers past this point.

If you follow game criticism, you might know of the term “ludonarrative dissonance.” This refers to when a video game’s story and gameplay do not mesh particularly well. For a recent example, look no further than Octopath Traveler (a game I also quite enjoyed). The game follows eight protagonists with individual goals and narratives, who wind up traveling together for no apparent reason aside from giving the player a full party, as per the JRPG norm.

Since the order of story chapters can vary per player, Octopath makes no real attempt to intertwine the travelers’ separate tales. In fact, story cutscenes only feature that particular chapter’s protagonist—on occasion you see the protagonist tossed into a prison cell alone, only to have the full party appear in jail with them when gameplay resumes. The game attempts to compensate for this with optional dialogue scenes in which the leader chats with another character about the chapter’s events, but while entertaining, this comes off more as a tiny bandage than an actual narrative solution.

So why do I bring up ludonarrative dissonance? Because Celeste pulls off the exact opposite, blending the game’s story beats with appropriate gameplay and level design, thus bringing out the best in each part. Arguably the best example of this occurs during the story’s turning point in Chapter 6. After Madeline finally opens up to Theo about her struggle with depression and how that motivated her to climb Celeste Mountain, she thinks the solution is to leave behind her vices and negative energy, which have taken the form of the antagonist Badeline (typically referred to as “Part of Me” in-game, but Badeline is her official name according to Towerfall). This attempt to deny the parts of her that she hates backfires when Badeline retaliates and tosses Madeline halfway back down the mountain.

Farther into the chapter, Madeline realizes that Badeline, being “Part of [Her],” cannot be destroyed or left behind, and she tries to make amends, proposing they work together. Badeline, who shares Madeline’s fears and anxieties about the climb, pushes back at first, creating the closest thing Celeste has to a boss battle. The two eventually make peace, and as they merge into a more powerful form, the words “LEVEL UP” flash on-screen.

Celeste has no actual level-up system, but the player quickly discovers that Madeline can now do not one, but two mid-air dashes per jump, which aids her in finishing the climb in Chapter 7. Here, rather than ludonarrative dissonance, we see an excellent example of ludonarrative resonance (or harmony, depending on your preference): with her breakthrough in the narrative, Madeline becomes stronger in the game, which complements the game’s theme of coping with mental illness.

On a personal note, this and many other moments in the game’s story resonated with me and my own journey through anxiety — but as I got to the more challenging B-Side stages, I found that observing Madeline’s character arc also made me a better Celeste player. I’m typically the kind of gamer that can rage pretty easily at challenging single-player games like this; Celeste‘s post-game levels are no slouch! But during my run of the Chapter 7 B-Side, I had a different reaction.

When I started to rage, I considered Chapter 7’s premise: Madeline accepts Badeline as Part of Her, and through their new bond they become stronger together. As I thought about that, I found myself channeling my frustration into determination (here’s to you, Undertale!), which helped me push myself even farther before I needed a well-deserved breather. That moment of clarity was when I knew Celeste would easily be one of my top games of 2018, and ever since, I have tried to carry similar lessons with me on some of my more stressful or anxious days.

I could point to several other moments in Celeste that helped me process my anxiety or that I could strongly relate to, but for now, I would encourage everyone to check out some of the countless other articles and videos that have been made on that very subject. And if you aren’t one of the roughly half million people to give the game a shot, I highly recommend checking it out or at least watching an LP – especially if anxiety or depression plays a big role in your life too. Celeste isn’t a perfect symbol of these struggles, nor is it a substitute for real mental health treatment, but it’s a beautiful reminder that we’re never alone in that fight.

As the game’s director, Matt Thorson, put it in his Game Awards acceptance speech:

“If Celeste has helped you come to terms with mental illness … you deserve credit for that. That change came from inside of you, and you are capable of a lot more.”
— Matt Thorson

Keep climbing, my friends.

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What Was Your Favorite Game of 2018?

It’s officially a brand new year! 2019 is sure to be another great year with exciting titles like the Resident Evil 2 remake, Kingdom Hearts III, a new Animal Crossing, and so much more. Before we charge ahead into the new year, let’s take one last moment to look back on 2018 and appreciate the games that challenged us and brought us joy and excitement.

As someone who primarily games on Nintendo Switch, it was something of a quiet year, at least in terms of AAA games. Nintendo had few first-party releases for the first nine months, then launched three massive hits in the final quarter. Super Mario Party, Pokémon: Let’s Go, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate are all fantastic games that have been consuming all my free time over the holiday season. Each one is a worthy candidate in its own right, but I’d say they all felt a little too familiar to stand out as game of the year material.

Instead, I’m going to choose a title that totally captivated me when it launched much earlier in the year. I’ve never been the best at platformers, but something about Celeste just made me want to keep trying again and again and again until I got it right. The gameplay alone is outstanding in its clever design and ever-escalating challenge, and that’s all wrapped up in an emotional story, a beautifully-crafted retro aesthetic, and one of the best video game soundtracks I’ve ever heard.

So what was your favorite game of 2018, and what made it stand out above the rest? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Indie News Nintendo Switch PlayStation 4

A Collector’s Edition of Celeste is Going On Sale Tomorrow

Celeste is one of the best games of 2018, but as is the case with most indie games, it was only available digitally. That’s going to change as we enter the new year, courtesy of Limited Run Games, a company which specializes in creating physical copies of digital-only games in limited batches. Two versions of the game will be available for sale across PlayStation 4 and Switch—a standard edition and a collector’s edition. The standard edition only includes the game, but the collector’s edition throws in a lot of really cool goodies, including:

  • A SteelBook® case
  • 16″ X 20″ Poster of Celeste Mountain
  • Strawberry plush keychain
  • Cassette soundtrack
  • Sticker sheet
  • Celeste Mountain patch
  • Celeste Mountain postcard
  • Strawberry pie recipe card
  • Download code for the full digital soundtrack

Starting at 10:00 AM Eastern Time tomorrow, January 1st, pre-orders will launch for all versions of the game. For the standard edition on both platforms, pre-orders will close on Friday, February 1st. If you want the collector’s editions, however, the availability window is much tighter. These editions will be available for sale in two batches, opening tomorrow at 10:00 AM Eastern and 6:00 PM Eastern specifically. The PlayStation 4 collector’s edition will set you back $74.99, while the Switch version costs $79.99. Unlike with the standard edition, quantities of the collector’s editions are very limited (2,000 copies for PlayStation 4 and 2,500 on Switch) and will likely sell out very quickly, so get your trigger fingers ready!

Source: Limited Run Games

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Celeste Has Sold Over Half a Million Copies

One of my favorite games of the year is indie darling Celeste. With challenging platforming gameplay, an outstanding soundtrack, beautiful retro graphics, and an emotionally charged story, Celeste impressed gamers around the world. It even managed a Game of the Year nomination and took home Best Independent Game at The Game Awards.

As the year nears its end (and as Celeste nears its one year anniversary), Director Matt Thorson took to Twitter to share a major milestone. Celeste has now sold over 500,000 copies since it launched on January 25, 2018. Thorson also followed up on the previous teaser by officially announcing that new, harder levels are on their way to the game in 2019.

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Celeste May Be Getting Even More Challenging Levels

Celeste is one of the most impressive and critically acclaimed games of 2018, and it made our list of must-have indies on Switch and must-see speedruns of SGDQ. If you’re like us and you just can’t get enough of this challenging platformer, you’ll be happy to know that developer Matt Thorson (the titular developer behind the Matt Makes Games studio) seems to be hinting at future content.

Thorson recently took to Twitter to share a short clip of what appears to be a brand new Celeste level. The short segment is filled with beautiful sparkles and certain death. That’s the Celeste we all know and love! The new level is simply labeled “Work in progress,” so it’s not exactly clear what Thorson’s plans are.

In the absence of official word, fans are speculating about the future of the game. Could this dangerous new level be a “D-Side” (a follow-up to the ultra-difficult B-Side and C-Side levels), a new, ninth chapter, or something else entirely? We’ll be keeping our eyes out for more updates!

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Indie News

A Celeste Physical Release is in the Works

If you’re a fan of challenging platformers, beautiful music, and a moving story, you’ll want to check out Celeste. This indie darling was one of our five must-have titles on Nintendo Switch eShop and it has quickly become a big hit in the speedrunning community. Currently Celeste is only available as a digital download, but that could be changing soon.

Fans recently
started a petition to get publisher Limited Run Games to give Celeste a physical release. The petition itself (which is only seeking 500 signatures) isn’t likely to have much influence, but it sounds like that won’t be necessary. In response to a tweet about the petition, Celeste co-creator, programmer, and artist Noel Berry tweeted out “Workin’ on it.”

This will be a lovely addition to anyone’s collection of physical indie releases, and it’s certainly popular enough to warrant a trip to retail. Hopefully we’ll get an official announcement soon!

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Make Sure to Check Out These Runs Debuting During Summer Games Done Quick 2018

Summer Games Done Quick is just a couple days away, starting this Sunday, June 24th, at 12:30 PM Eastern. As always, this week-long event will be packed full of amazing speedruns, all performed in the name of supporting Doctors Without Borders. SGDQ 2018 is boasting an impressive lineup of 175 runs, totaling an estimated 148 hours of gameplay. Many of these games have been featured before, but there is an exciting handful making their GDQ debut!

Metroid: Samus Returns—Any% by Mr_Shasta

Nintendo surprised us all last summer when it announced
Metroid: Samus Returns for the Nintendo 3DS. Even more surprising was that it was set to launch just a few short months later! Samus Returns is a remake of Metroid II: Return of Samus, in which our favorite bounty hunter Samus Aran is tasked with the extermination of the Metroid species.

Samus Returns is more than a simple remaster, however. Samus is back with a new suite of tricks known as Aeion abilities. These abilities range from slowing down time to scanning the environment for hidden secrets. Upgrades from later in the series, such as the Super Missile, have also been added in to SR388.

Metroid speedruns have always intrigued me because of the labyrinthine nature of the games. There are usually some beautiful technical tricks utilized throughout the run, but the amount of knowledge needed to remember where to go, in addition to the inventory management often required, has kept me captivated. 

There’s no doubt that this run will be just as exciting. Mr_Shasta is one of the top runners for the Any% category, currently holding third place with an in-game time of 1 hour, 27 minutes, and 21 seconds. Given that this is just over three minutes slower than record, I’m positive that this run will be one to watch.

Metroid: Samus Returns is scheduled for 9:46 PM on Tuesday, June 26th.

Cuphead—All Flags (Regular, Legacy) by TheMexicanRunner

Alright, I’m pretty biased on this one. As the head moderator of the
Cuphead speedrunning community, I couldn’t be more excited to see the game make its Games Done Quick debut. Putting my personal bias aside, however, Cuphead is a speedrun that is equal parts challenging to play and entertaining to watch, making it one of my most anticipated runs of the week.

When
Cuphead launched in September of last year, it quickly made a name for itself as a rather difficult, albeit extremely successful and well-received game. Despite this, Cuphead may be best known for its overall aesthetic—notably a phenomenal jazz soundtrack and visuals mimicking the golden age of cartoons. As Cuphead‘s popularity grew, so did the interest in speedrunning it. In fact, at one point, Cuphead ranked on speedrun.com as the most actively run title on the site. Even now, it still holds 12th place!

As hard as
Cuphead can be on its own, it can be even more devilish when one tries to complete it quickly. A top-tier speedrun requires extensive knowledge of boss attack patterns, a sixth sense about how far you’ve progressed in the fight, good RNG, and some incredibly risky maneuvers. Even the easiest of the Cuphead bosses can be a run killer if you take it too easy and lose track of these ingredients.

Presenting the game during Games Done Quick is none other than TheMexicanRunner. Though TMR may be best known for being the first person to complete all 714 NES games, he is also a very accomplished speedrunner, currently holding records in
Battletoads, Contra, and Cuphead. In fact, the current record in All Flags (Regular, Legacy) is held by TMR, with an impressive time of 30 minutes, 32 seconds.

Cuphead at Summer Games Done Quick provides the perfect combination of a being a beautiful game and an exciting, tense speedrun, all while being performed by a very popular, talented runner. It is this combination that earns Cuphead a spot on this list!

Cuphead is scheduled for 10:56 PM on Wednesday, June 27th.

A Hat in Time—Any% Race by flarebear and ConnorAce

Despite how you may feel about developers turning to Kickstarter to acquire funding, there have been a few games that have done fairly well after their goal was met. One such game is
A Hat in Time, a Banjo-Kazooie/Super Mario 64-inspired action platformer that raised almost 10 times its crowdfunding goal.

A Hat in Time follows its protagonist, Hat Kid, as she tries to regain her missing Time Pieces, powerful objects that can control the flow of time and serve as fuel for her spaceship. Along her journey, she has to square off against the Mafia and her friend-turned-enemy Mustache Girl. There are a lot of collectibles to grab along the voyage, including Yarn Balls. These balls can then be crafted into various hats, which grant Hat Kid various powers.

The speedrun makes heavy use of movement techniques to skip entire portions of the required levels, as well as to generally go faster.
A Hat in Time will make its GDQ debut as a race between flarebear and ConnorAce, ranked 6th and 16th on the leaderboards, respectively. Though the three minutes separating these players may make this seem like a one-sided race, in a live setting, anything can happen!

A Hat in Time is scheduled for 12:06 AM on Thursday, June 28th.

Celeste—Any% Race by TGH and yoshipro

2018 came out of the gate swinging with a little independent platformer titled
Celeste. Much like Cuphead a few months prior, Celeste quickly received praise for its difficulty level, which I previously likened to that of Super Meat Boy. More notably, however, was how Celeste tackled the ever-prevalent issues of depression and mental health throughout its story and its main character, Madeline.

The controls in
Celeste are fairly simple relative to other titles. You can move, jump, climb, and dash. Madeline must make use of these actions to journey up Celeste Mountain, and much as climbing a real mountain is difficult, so too is Madeline’s journey. What makes Celeste this difficult is the fact that players must precisely time and position their movements in order to overcome the obstacles ahead of them.

Races are always a favorite of mine at events like this, even more so when the game involved relies on mechanics like those in
Celeste. A simple mistake can cause a screen reset or worse, and in most races, this could be the deciding factor. Just look at the Super Metroid race from SGDQ 2017 as an example.


But in games such as Celeste, such a mistake is hardly the end of the road. Mistakes will likely happen on both sides. Celeste was built with speedrunning in mind, however, and as a result has near-instantaneous respawn times. This makes each mistake nothing more than a tiny bump in the road.

The race will be made even better because of the runners behind the controls. TGH and yoshipro are currently ranked 1st and 2nd respectively in the Any% category and are only separated by about a minute in times. All of this combined means that
Celeste is going to be a super tight, entertaining race from beginning to end.

The Celeste Any% race is scheduled for 1:21 AM on Thursday, June 28th. As a bonus incentive, there is a tool-assisted run (TAS) queued for somewhere on the schedule if enough money is raised. Take it from me, you
definitely want to check out this insanity.

Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy—Glitchless% by MONTYvsTHEWORLD

When
Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy launched last October, I never expected it to take off as a speed game. Getting Over It is a rage-inducing mountain climbing game where you ascend by propelling yourself with a sledgehammer. Even the slightest mistake can cause an avalanche of lost progress. I’ve seen people throw chairs and computer mice, scream at the top of their lungs, and cry, all because they wound up a few sections behind where they were. But give people enough time and anything is possible.

Not long after release, runners were already driving times down to just a few minutes. MONTYvsTHEWORLD is currently 17th on the leaderboard with an in-game time of 1 minute, 47.086 seconds. Despite this ranking, however, MONTY is just about 20 seconds behind the record. In fact, the top 44 players all have times under two minutes.
Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is set to be an extremely short run, but the technicality and difficulty of the run should prove to be an entertaining time. Just don’t blink or you might miss it.

Getting Over It with Bennett Foddy is scheduled for 2:47 AM on Thursday, June 28th.

All times are listed in Eastern time. The schedule is subject to (and will) change throughout the marathon. For the most current revision, be sure to check out the schedule here (automatically converts to your time zone).

Articles Columns Features Indie Nintendo Nintendo Switch

Five Must-Have Indie Games on Nintendo Switch

Nintendo recently treated us to another
Nindies Showcase, highlighting some of the most exciting upcoming Switch eShop games from independent developers. When these titles hit Nintendo’s online store, they’ll be joining an already robust arsenal of top-notch games from talented developers. You may have bought your Switch for first-party Nintendo masterpieces like Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey, but there has been a steady flow of incredible games from smaller teams in between the AAA releases, and some of them are simply too good to pass up. Here’s five must-have indie games on Nintendo Switch!

Axiom Verge

If you’re a
Metroid fan and you haven’t picked up Axiom Verge yet, what are you doing with your life? Axiom Verge hits you right out of the gate with an eerily compelling sci-fi soundtrack and a retro-styled cutscene that would feel right at home on Super Nintendo or SEGA Genesis. Then it quickly drops you into a massive, alien overworld, and your adventure begins.

Axiom Verge combines the incredible explorability of a game like Super Metroid with an intriguing narrative told partially through cutscenes and partially by the ancient writings you find hidden throughout the land of Sudra. Each of the game’s nine sprawling regions has its own unique flora and fauna, color scheme, background design, and music that perfectly sets the tone for what lies within. You’ll want to explore every inch and uncover every secret.

On top of excellent level design,
Axiom Verge features a wide variety of upgrades, items, and weapons. Some are needed to progress through the game, but many are optional rewards gifted to the player for diligent exploration. With dozens of guns to choose from, there’s a weapon for every scenario and play style. You’ll want to grab as many as you can, because boss fights are intense, heart-pounding endurance matches with massive monsters.

Axiom Verge was crafted virtually singlehandedly by developer Tom Happ, making its high quality even more astounding. It’s not only one of my favorite indies on Switch, but one of my favorite games of all time. If you want to know even more about this impressive Metroidvania adventure, you can check out a full review here.

Current price: $20

Ittle Dew 2

The award-winning Breath of the Wild should be enough to scratch your itch for massive 3D Zelda games for awhile, but what about a more traditional top-down experience? That’s where Ittle Dew 2 comes in. Battle monsters, explore an exotic island, and tackle eight main dungeons (with just as many secret dungeons and special dungeons) in any order you want, all on a quest for loot and a magic raft.

Puzzles are where Ittle Dew 2 truly shines. Each dungeon is filled with a variety of imaginative puzzles that will challenge your brain. Protagonist Ittle is armed with four tools for puzzle-solving: a melee weapon for smackin’ stuff, a ring that creates blocks of ice and freezes enemies, a wand that can be used to move blocks from a distance, and good ol’ handy dynamite.These same items are used for bashing baddies as well. Ittle Dew 2‘s combat isn’t as polished as Zelda‘s, but it’s serviceable for a game that’s more focused on challenging your mind.

Exploring the island is an absolute joy in Ittle Dew 2. Each dungeon is part of its own unique, themed region, like the candy-coated shores of Sweetwater Coast or the Old West Pepperpain Prairie with its rivers of hot sauce. Each region also has its own distinct music, and every track is terribly catchy. The inhabitants of the island are all amusing, with Ittle Dew and her companion Tippsie often bantering with them in a way that reminds me of Banjo and Kazooie. It all combines for a charming atmosphere.

On Nintendo Switch you’ll even get some extra content in the form of the Dream World. This new region contains five exclusive dungeons that each present a unique challenge by only allowing you to use certain items. As you progress through these new challenges, you’ll collect cards that give you background info on the various characters and NPCs in the game, adding to the lore. If you want to know more about this Zelda-inspired island adventure, you can check out a full review here.

Current price: $30

Mighty Gunvolt Burst

Oh,
Mighty No. 9, how you failed us. What was supposed to be a beautiful spiritual successor to Mega Man felt like a sloppy and soulless knock-off, but thankfully something good came out of all that bad. Mighty Gunvolt Burst is something of a de-make of Mighty No. 9 crossed over with Inti Creates’ Azure Striker Gunvolt series. Mighty No. 9‘s levels have been redesigned in an 8-bit style, and they can be traversed as either Beck or Gunvolt, with Ekoro joining after launch as DLC.

The run and gun gameplay feels much closer to
Mega Man right out of the gate, but the game’s real hook is its weapon system. Rather than following the typical formula of “beat a boss and steal its weapon,” Mighty Gunvolt Burst unlocks all the different weapon types from the beginning, but they’re all fairly puny to start out. As you progress through the game, you unlock upgrades that can be equipped to your gun by spending cost points. You can make your shots bigger, faster, dissipating, homing, and so much more.

Mighty Gunvolt Burst is an addicting action-platformer with the right blend of that classic feel and new features. It’s a little on the short side, but unlocking new weapon upgrades, experimenting with customization, and replaying levels for high scores will keep you engaged.

Current price: $10

Golf Story

I picked up Golf Story on a whim a few days ago, and I haven’t been able to put it down since. I’ve never been a huge fan of golf sims, but I remember having some fun with some of the simpler ones like Mario Golf: Advance Tour years ago on Game Boy Advance. After hearing some good things from friends and colleagues, I decided to give Golf Story a shot, and I got a lot more than just a golf game!

The story follows a former golfer returning to the sport for the first time in 20 years. You’re determined to make it big, but right now you can’t even get the coach at the dumpiest course around to train you! By engaging with the local inhabitants of Wellworn Grove and taking on their quests and golfing challenges, you’ll make connections, level up (increasing stats like power and accuracy), and make a name for yourself in the world of golf.

Quests range from battling an army of evil skeletons to tracking bothersome moles back to their hideout to smashing pumpkins because a possessed, talking stone said you should. The game has an off-beat sense of humor that, at its best times, reminds me of a tamer
EarthBound. Early in the game, challenges are just tutorials to teach you the basics and some useful techniques, but as you progress, NPCs will come up with progressively harder shots for you to tackle.

Golf Story is also much larger than I expected, as you’ll eventually leave Wellworn Grove to travel to other themed locations, such as the sunny Bermuda Isles or the frozen Coldwind Wastes. There are eight total areas, and each one is packed with a variety of colorful characters, side quests, challenges, and collectibles. Each area also has an official golf course (which you can replay as many times as you’d like to try to improve your score), as well as some smaller courses and a “secret course” provided by an NPC. There’s tons to do from start to finish, and you’ll be having fun the whole way.

Current price: $15

Celeste

I’ve always been a fan of action-platformers like Mega Man X and Metroid, but I’m a lot more hesitant to pick up a game where the platforming itself is the game’s greatest antagonist. Tough-as-nails platformers that require precisely timed jumps through never-ending death traps have always been frustrating to me, but something about Celeste caught my eye during the January Nintendo Direct. I decided to give it a try a few weeks later, and it quickly became one of my favorite Switch games.

Celeste drew me in with a beautiful pixel art style and an engrossing soundtrack that’s equal parts soothing and haunting. Unlike many platformers, it also features a fairly impactful story. You play as a young woman named Madeline on a journey of self-discovery, and more literally, on a journey up a treacherous mountain. Madeline’s frustration and determination matches your own as you take on progressively harder challenges that will test your wits, your timing, and your sanity.

Thankfully, the game isn’t unfairly punishing. Levels are lengthy and comprised of multiple challenges, but each challenge is short, usually spanning only a screen or two. Much like
Super Meat Boy, you’ll instantly respawn at the start of a challenge after death. This means there’s no frustrating wait times between deaths, which is important due to the fact that you’re going to be dying a lot. If you find yourself too stumped to go on, the game’s Assist Mode allows you to allows you to modify the rules to reduce its difficulty. This includes options such as slowing the game speed, granting yourself invincibility or infinite stamina, and skipping chapters entirely. I never used this mode on my original playthrough, which means I died over 2,000 times reaching the mountain’s summit. I’m glad I toughed it out, because the feeling of conquering a brutal challenge after numerous failures is exhilarating.

Celeste also excels in the area of content, as every single level has an alternate, harder version called a B-Side that you can unlock. I’ve already put around 15 hours into the game, and I’ve only beaten half of the total levels. Throw in the challenge of getting a 100% rate for collectibles, and you’ve got a game that will keep challenging you long after the credit roll. If you want to find out more about this beautiful, brutal mountain-climbing adventure, you can check out a full review here.

Current price: $20

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Celeste Dashes to the Peak of the Challenging Platformer Genre

When it comes to tight, difficult platformers, Super Meat Boy may be the most prominent example, but there are others just as worthy of the descriptor. One such game is Celeste, a full-fledged adventure from Matt Thorson (of Towerfall fame) and Noel Berry. You may be familiar with an earlier PICO-8 game of the same name, also by Thorson and Berry, and it is this version that serves as the foundation on which Celeste is built.

One common metaphor for facing life’s obstacles is that of climbing a mountain. You start out at the bottom, looking up at the peak. As you begin climbing, the series of choices you make shapes the path you climb, whether good or bad. You may slip here and there, but with enough perseverance, you finally reach the peak. In this sense, everybody can relate to Celeste‘s main character, Madeline. Except, in Madeline’s case, she’s facing a literal mountain.

Celeste‘s story may at face value be just that—a story about mountain climbing. But just as the mountain metaphor works in real life, it also works in Celeste. The developers have craftily utilized this scenario as a tool to tell a story about overcoming obstacles and going on a journey to find yourself. This allows us, as the player, to project ourselves easily onto Madeline, whatever our problem may be. It’s a very real, very human experience that gets expressed in a way the likes of which I haven’t felt from a game in a very long time.

As far as the gameplay is concerned, Celeste feels very precise, as it’s clearly designed to be. Throughout the game, you’ll travel through over 600 screens filled with spikes, enemies, moving platforms, and much more. Each screen is in itself a small puzzle as you figure out how to effectively navigate the traps within, utilizing only a few moves throughout the entire game to do so. Much like with Super Meat Boy, you will die a lot. But each death is a learning opportunity. Making the most of these chances is essential not only to progress throughout the game, but it reinforces the main theme of overcoming your obstacles.

You can always stick to the main path, but if you’re the adventurous sort, there are all kinds of secrets and collectibles. Each chapter has a number of strawberries you can pick up, though these are often placed along harder paths throughout the screens. To make these even harder to get, touching one doesn’t automatically collect it. You have to get back to safety in order for the collection to register. For those who like harder levels, each chapter also contains a cassette which unlocks the “B-Side” chapter when you get it. The B-Side levels are much harder, to the point that it took me over an hour to complete just one set of them. I also found a few other secrets within, including my favorite—an in-game version of the original
Celeste!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the phenomenal aesthetic details that make up Celeste. The art style is a crisp throwback to the retro games of yore, perfectly updating the 8-bit style with a bit of color and flair. Outside of the actual gameplay, the menus are more modern, providing a slick juxtaposition with the retro style within the game proper.

As beautiful as
Celeste looks, however, what really stands out to me is how it sounds. The soundtrack is top-notch throughout, blending orchestral melodies with pulsing chiptune mixes. My favorite tracks are those from the B-Side levels, specifically the song from Chapter 3. This soundtrack is certainly going towards the top of my collection so I have easy access to listen to it as much as I want.

Celeste perfectly embodies the mountain metaphor, both in story and gameplay. The difficulty of the levels seems daunting at first (except the B-Sides—those are still daunting), but as you learn and progress, you realize it wasn’t as hard as you expected. There’s a great satisfaction looking back on the challenging sections, realizing that despite all the hardships you went through, you were successful in making progress. It is a bit of a completionist’s nightmare however, as there’s a ton of extra content, some of which is absolutely brutal. Really though, the only ways you can go wrong with Celeste are to underestimate it or to avoid it completely.

Celeste is now available on PC, Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

A copy of Celeste was provided by Matt Makes Games Inc. for the purposes of this review.

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Our Verdict
Celeste
Challenging stages; Lots of replay value for completionists; Phenomenal soundtrack; Relatable, metaphorical story
Fairly short if not going for the additional content
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This Week’s Nintendo Downloads Include Pokémon Crystal, Celeste, and a Massive Switch eShop Sale

Nintendo’s online eShop catalog is welcoming the releases of all kinds of digital games this week, and if you’re among those who picked up a Nintendo Switch this past Christmas and are looking for more bang for your buck, a lot of high profile titles for the console are currently on sale for up to 30% off. Here’s to hoping your wallets aren’t hurting too much after the holidays!

Available today on the Nintendo Switch—as well as Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Steam, and Itch.io—is the latest game from TowerFall developer Matt Makes Games, Inc. Celeste is a beautiful platformer with a simple control scheme pitted against death-defying maps, where you take control of a young girl named Madeline as she climbs the perilous Celeste Mountain. I got try to try the game for myself at PAX West last year and have been itching for the release ever since, and if you’re on the fence about it, you can try out the freeware prototype right here. You can also purchase the soundtrack from composer Lena Raine’s Bandcamp. Stay tuned for our own review of Celeste right here at Gamnesia.

Pokémon fans need not look forward to the Virtual Console version of Pokémon Crystal for much longer, as it goes live tomorrow on the 3DS eShop at 9:00 AM PST. Crystal first launched as the third version entry for the second generation of Pokémon after Gold and Silver for the Game Boy Color, and to spice up this particular release for the Nintendo 3DS, you will be able to capture the Mythical Pokémon Celebi within the actual game. Just like the previous Pokémon Virtual Console releases, you will be able to transfer your pocket monsters from Crystal to the modern games through Poké Transporter.

Nintendo Switch owners can also beef up their own personal library while saving a fair mint, as many games on the eShop are on sale for up to 30% off. ARMS, 1-2 Switch, and Ubisoft’s Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (both the base game and the Gold Edition) are all decently discounted if you’re looking for more of Nintendo’s own wares, as well as other third-party must-haves like DOOM, Dragon Ball Xenoverse 2, and Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers.

Also new this week are the following games on the eShop:

Which of these games are you planning on picking up this week? What else of Nintendo’s own wares do you hope to see discounted on the Switch eShop? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

Source: Nintendo PR

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Our Verdict

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