Bot Gaiden is the epitome of a Saturday morning cartoon: bright, bold visuals, robotic ninjas and colossal baddies, and some cool Sonic the Hedgehog-like guitar licks to complement the action. But is it worth getting up on a Saturday morning, filling a giant bowl of cereal and sitting in your PJs to give it a go?
Great thinkers will conclude that the ‘Gaiden‘ in Bot Gaiden might allude to some ninja shenanigans involving a Hayabusa – and they’d be right. The heroes of the hour are indeed ninjas, robot ninjas, and they can cling to the walls like skidmarks on a pair of Paw Patrol pants. And, as a non-fan of the original NES game, Eastasiasoft’s latest is better.
You play either Robyu or Bytron – depending on whether you’re playing in co-op, and have to go up against each level’s boss before reaching Giorqio. The latter has sought out your power skulls, and you must win them back. Said power skulls unleash permanent power-ups for each stage as long as you beat the level in a specific time. Even better: you can play any stage (except for Giorqio) in any order. Yes, they are tougher, but you get better goodies if you can beat the later levels first.
Bot Gaiden PS5 Review
Bot Gaiden plays like classic side-scrollers such as Ninja Gaiden, Strider and a little Mega Man. The default commands are a melee attack and jump, plus you can dodge incoming attacks by rolling on the spot. Heed this warning: hold down the dodge for too long, and you’ll self-destruct. Keep up the momentum without being hit, and you’ll earn better power-ups, but you will lose them one after the other each time you’re hit. It’s a fair system, but when you die, you lose them all, and it can be nigh on impossible to beat the bosses without a ranged attack.
Powers include a sort of double jump, ninja star projectiles and a hyperspeed that allows you to speed through a stage. The latter isn’t just a way of getting you to the boss faster without dicking about, but if you finish each stage in under two minutes, you get the best gear for the next one. It’s a three-tier system, gold being a two-minute completion. For the first ten minutes, Bot Gaiden felt impossible, but with a little faith/risk, it’s doable to speedrun through a level, even if you aren’t much of a speedrunner (like me). BUT: there are a few mechanics to Bot Gaiden that makes it a little… testing.
Falling off screen will instantly kill you, and when your lives are up, you have to restart the stage. No dramas. As stated, you can complete a stage in two minutes, and you can drop into any stage from the menu select. Falling off screen is fair too – we’ve been doing it since Super Mario, but the issue is climbing a ladder to a new screen, getting hit by an enemy or cocking up on the wall jump and dying by misplacing the jump. Perhaps the most challenging aspects of the game are the flying enemies and boss damage.
Flying enemies have always been my beef with platform games, especially those flying through artefacts. Here they seek you down and knock you down in mid-air, forcing you to lose a life if you can’t recover from the jump. In something like the third stage, they swarm you and prevent you from getting up a ladder. As for the bosses, they will slap you in a handful of hits if you aren’t careful (the shield thing is rubbish here), and when you lose the ranged power-ups, it’s a challenge. Do note there are many cheese options, especially on the easier modes, which might spoil it for some.
Other than these niggles, Bot Gaiden is a great Saturday morning session. The main characters in Bot Gaiden look like a cross between Optimus Prime and Raziel from Soul Reaver, and as a result, a pleasure on the eyeballs. Though the stages are relatively short due to the difficulty levels and co-op options, there’s a lot of replay value here, and depending on your skill level, this isn’t necessarily a game you’ll steam through in an hour and not play again. For the most part, I enjoyed it (aside from the flying enemies), and suggest you check this out if you’re from the 16-bit era/have a penchant for old-school gaming that’s good and not just because it’s trendy.