Amazing Princess Sarah is a call back to the games of my childhood, its 8 bit style and game design triggering memories of Castlevania, Megaman and Mario that have long remained dormant. Its simple story focuses on your father, the King, who while entertaining what appears to be the majority of enemy types you will face within the game in his throne room, is enthralled by a succubus called Lilith and you are whisked away by a demon to prevent you from interfering. As such, you must battle your way through a myriad of castles in order to rescue your father.
Combat and gameplay as a whole takes a lot of cues from these 8 bit classics; enemy attacks have a great deal of variety, environmental items contain health, and successful enemy hits cause a knockback effect, yet there are some innovations here worthy of note.
Aside from your standard sword attack, which can be used to dispose of the majority of enemies, you can also utilise items from the environment and even the enemies’ defeated corpses themselves in your battle against the minions of Lilith. Each of these corpses have differing properties; bats can be thrown long distances, ghosts travel across the screen in a straight line, elementals cast out a fire attack that sweeps across the platforms it hits, and archers disperse a volley of arrows over a short distance. When the screen becomes heavy with enemies, all of whom are attacking and moving in their own way, utilising these special attacks becomes all the more strategic.
Additionally, APS has a light smattering of RPG elements, with each enemy defeated awarding experience and additional hit points being gained as you level up. This experience is carried even if you die, giving the levels a rogue-like quality with your ever-increasing health pool allowing you to traverse further between checkpoints purely through your ability to take more punishment following each death.
Each Castle is a series of checkpoints, with a lot of platforming tropes contained within; disappearing platforms, moving platforms, bottomless pits, and typically involves a bit of exploring, switch activation and backtracking in order to move on to the next checkpoint. That said, most of the maps are pretty linear and its difficult to actually get lost within the level and the checkpoints are numerous enough that frustration over repeated deaths never really has the chance to kick in.
At the end of each castle you must face a boss battle, and each of these bosses have their own unique attack patterns that you must learn in order to overcome them. These bosses look somewhat out of place with the overall aesthetic as they appear drastically different from the 8 bit sprites you encounter throughout, but this does not affect the gameplay or hit detection on these enemies, and once you learn their pattern they can be easily overcome. Most can be done at your leisure, and only once did I encounter a boss where a particular attack could not be avoided, lending an air of urgency to that particular battle.
Once completed, you effectively unlock a new game +, and with seven of these in order to “fully” defeat Lilith, there is plenty of content to get through to actually complete the game. These change the mechanics enough to prevent the game feeling like a retreading of the original levels. A ghost version of yourself chases you throughout the game, enemies resist certain attacks, or a constant bleed effect that forces you to speed run from checkpoint to checkpoint help to refresh the game enough to make it feel different.
The game though, is not perfect. Certain enemy attacks can reach you through solid walls, and combined with the knockback effect, (which also makes you drop any item you are carrying), can cause untold frustration when the screen becomes increasingly crowded. I was also able to trick the game’s physics as well, bouncing miles into the air when chaining enemy head bounces together in a specific way. That said, the phasing attacks and breakable physics are the only two gripes I can level at the game, (if I ignore the pixelated jiggle physics that seem to have been added for no particular reason other than to garner attention).
Amazing Princess Sarah almost lives up to its name with pitch perfect platforming and varied attack mechanics, although its reliance on certain old school mechanics and frustrating bugs hold it back. Those issues aside, this is certainly a game that should be on your radar if you are a fan of action platformers.
Thanks to Xbox and Haruneko for supporting TiX
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