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Game Review #072: Battle Princess Madelyn (Nintendo Switch)

Reviewer: Chad M.

Developer: Causal Bit Games

Publisher: Causal Bit Games

Category: Arcade, Action, Adventure, Platformer 

Release Date: 12/20/2018

Buy Battle Princess Madelyn on the Nintendo eShop here.

Buy Battle Princess Madelyn (physical edition) from Amazon Japan here.

A Blast From The Past

Back when I was a young’n, I used to play my NES all the time, and one game that I would play that was unforgiving and ridiculously hard was Ghosts ‘N Goblins. I loved playing the game. Maybe it was something about being a brave knight, thrusting my handy javelin through ghoulish monsters, killer black birds, and so many more that was exciting. But, my lord, it was hard as hell! It was Dark Souls before there was the term “Dark Souls hard”. The platforming was genius, and the gameplay was fantastic. That, along with the music, was easily a classic by Capcom. So, when I saw Battle Princess Madelyn, my Spidey sense kicked in, as this looked, at first, like it was definitely taking liberties from a game that scarred me like no other. 

Daddy’s Little Dragon-Slayer

I was surprised to find out that there was a very good reason for the resemblance, and a nice story behind this game. Christopher Obritsch, the creative director over at Causal Bit Games, would often play one of his favorite games, Ghouls ‘N Ghosts—this is actually the sequel to Ghosts ‘N Goblins, which, understandably, looks fairly similar to the original game, and explains why I got the Ghosts ‘N Goblins vibes. As he would play, his young daughter, Madelyn, would watch and observe him playing. She would beg him to play the first level over and over, so she could watch him battle the main stage boss, Shielder, that she so eloquently renamed Green Head.

As her dad would play, Madelyn would ask him to put her in the game, and he would tell her he couldn’t, as it wasn’t his game. But he had an idea: he would create his own game, and he would have Madelyn star as the knight who saves the day! Though Madelyn was confused, telling her dad that girls can’t be knights, her father just smiled and said, “Oh yeah? What color do you want your armor to be?” He set out to make a game in the vein of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts and Wonder Boy 3: The Dragon’s Trap. Suffice it to say, Madelyn became a knight, and she has pink armor. Madelyn's first dog in real life, Fritzy, pass away almost two years ago. To add another personal touch, Fritzy is Madelyn’s pet dog in the game, who is killed, but resurrected to become her ghostly companion and guardian. 

To make this game a reality, Battle Princess Madelyn was brought to Kickstarter to help get funding and make it happen. Not only did they reach their goal in record time, but they smashed their initial asking by almost 400%! The community of Kickstarter embraced this beautiful tale of a father showing his daughter that, not only can a girl slay dragons and be the protector of the realm, but that you can be whoever you want to be, and you can also achieve any goal if you put in the work and connect with people on a level that they can relate to. As a father of a daughter myself, I can relate, and commend Christopher for being a great example of how a dad should teach his daughter to aim for the stars. Also, Madelyn Obritsch is the assistant creative director on the game, and helped come up with level design, monster design, and the hero of the game! 

She Can Save Us All

Battle Princess Madelyn follows the journey of a young knight-in-training, Madelyn, and her ghostly pet dog, Fritzy. They set out to avenge Fritzy and save the kingdom and her family from the evil wizard. There are two main modes in the game. The first is the arcade mode, which jumps straight into the action, and is more the feel of Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, as you start off in the graveyard, but before you know it you’re in the swamps, the countryside, castles and much more! This mode stretches 10 levels, with each level having around 5 stages before reaching a level boss. You also have a plethora of weapons, with each weapon changing as you armor up.

The other mode is story mode, where everything is laid out slower and more organic. You can interact with the townspeople, embarking on little side missions as you play though the campaign. In the story mode, I was getting some major Princess Bride movie vibes, since the story starts with young Madelyn lying in bed sick, and her grandfather stops by to read her a magical story about a fallen kingdom and a princess training to become a knight, who must travel through dangerous lands to defeat her enemies. At one point, you’re even accompanied by an older knight named Gramps, who helps Madelyn get to a certain starting point. 

Gameplay & Fun Factor

The gameplay allows you revisit levels you’ve already defeated so you can replay them, try to max out, and find every hidden item. You also start arcade mode with a few more helpful added features, like a power move and a double jump. I’m not sure why they were left out of the start of story mode—especially double jump—but it definitely left me only wanting to play arcade mode, as I was hoping you’d be able use the coins and shards you had collected to buy those features and other items in story mode. 

With 10 different weapons that evolve as your armor evolves, you have many options to dispose of the ghostly monsters that pop out of every corner. Each level has 10 distinct monsters, specific to their level, which added another level of authenticity to this title. So many times, games just feel as if they copy/paste the foes to a new level and background, but this felt like a living, breathing, magical experience, of which I enjoyed every minute thoroughly. 

It was also a fresh idea to use Fritzy as a companion that helps protect you and even help solve puzzles that sometimes become very crafty. Just like Ghouls ‘N Ghosts, you have the two hit and you die aspect where it first sheds her armor leaving her in her night dress than killing her outright. Fritzy then comes into play as he can resurrect Madelyn from death. He has a soul meter that takes a hit each time he resurrects her, but as you kill monsters it grows back so in a sense you could go on forever with endless lives. 

Audio & Visuals

The audio is brilliantly crafted in two completely different soundtracks, and you can choose which one fits your gaming style and taste best. First is the arcade soundtrack, with hectic pacing performed by Gryzor87, of Maldita Castilla fame. Second is the more modern, orchestrated soundtrack, created and performed by John McCarthy of Nintendo Quest fame. The hand-drawn, masterfully done character pixel art is just beautiful. It pops off the screen with incredible detail, and truly a nostalgic look. 

Final Thoughts

As I grew older and finally revisited Ghost ‘N Goblins years later, I sat there and compared it to Mega Man and Castlevania, wondering why Ghosts ‘N Goblins or Ghouls ‘N Ghosts never added something as simple as a life bar that could be refilled. The people over at Causal Bit Games realized this, and much more, all in the name of a father trying to make his daughter smile, and to teach her a valuable lesson. The love has truly been translated into this game, and is something we all can enjoy. The most magnificent part is that so many games nowadays try to throw a quick nostalgic paint job on their game, hoping it’ll tug at our nostalgic heartstrings, but Battle Princess Madelyn does far more: it takes a game that many loved, and makes a spiritual successor that we can all love like the original. 

Final Score: 9.5/10

Buy Battle Princess Madelyn on the Nintendo eShop here.

Buy Battle Princess Madelyn (physical edition) from Amazon Japan here.

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