When Sole Goose Productions sent out a tweetback in March looking for reviewers to cover a new NES homebrew game titled, Trophy, Inaturally jumped at the chance, and eagerly volunteered my services.
Being a huge fan of the Nintendo EntertainmentSystem since the ‘80s, the thought of playing a brand new game for the 30-plus-year-oldconsole was definitely intriguing; and not having really dabbled too much with any NEShomebrew titles in the past, I figured this would be a great opportunity to get my feetwet into covering something brand-spanking-new.
I was sent a free press review copy, containingthe near-complete, and fully playable version of the game.
I’ll elaborate a bit further as we movealong in this review.
Trophy was programmed from the ground up byGradual Games’ Derek Andrews, utilizing 6502 assembly language.
6502? Isn’t that the name of the old second guitaristfrom Dead Kennedys? Anyway, since the tender age of twelve, Derekhad envisioned a video game protagonist in the form of a robot who adorned a trophy-shapedhead, starring in his very own 8-bit adventure.
A tireless three-year project helmed by Derek, with all of the game’s music being composed by the man himself, in addition to LaurieAndrews spearheading the graphics department; Trophy has finally been brought to life, realizinga dream 20-plus years in the making.
Beginning as a Kickstarter project, the monetarygoal has been exceeded, and copies of Trophy are available for purchase, with a releasedate slated for June 2020.
Link in the description below.
And great news! Trophy is playable on the Retron 5, and ifyou’ve been watching my channel for a while, you know that it’s the console that I useto capture all of my NES footage, so you can only imagine my excitement when I popped thecart in and it fired right up.
Hell yeah! Now let’s dive into the game.
Trophy begins with the Gradual Games turtlemascot leading into the title screen, complimented by a catchy intro tune.
Hey, that’s me! The final product will also include an openingcutscene, but as it is still undergoing some fine-tuning, it was omitted from the pressreview copy.
Like Mega Man, Trophy begins with the optionto choose from which world to begin your adventure, from a total of eight.
Also like Mega Man, you assume the role ofa cutesy-android, equipped with an arm that fires projectiles, who has the ability tojump, climb ladders, and just about anything else that the Blue Bomber can do as well.
In fact, you could even call Trophy a loveletter to Capcom’s renowned run’n gun franchise, as the game obviously pays homageto it in a multitude of ways.
Cartoon-like enemy sprites inhabit this ambitiousplatformer, many of whom take influences straight from several of the baddies found throughoutthe Mega Man universe.
If you’re familiar with those games, you’llbe able to recognize where some enemy patters had originated from, along with their abilityto annoyingly respawn when barely scrolling the screen away, and then back to avoid certainhazards.
Ah, 8-bit goodness.
The stages all offer an eclectic range ofunique environments, differing vastly from one another, while at the same time, drawinginspiration from – you guessed it – Mega Man.
This is certainly not a bad thing for themajority of the game, as the backgrounds offer rich and colorful backdrops to complimentthe enemies housed within.
But at times I did occasionally find myselfdying, or causing myself some inconvenience by the inability to sometimes decipher floorsfrom background graphics when identical color palettes were used in conjunction.
Not that big a deal, as I just sum it up toarchetypal trial and error, and yeah, there is quite a bit in Trophy, which is not atall uncommon for an 8-bit platformer.
At the end of each stage you are greeted byan enormous boss, which is definitely one of the big selling points for Trophy.
The gigantic sprites are absolutely gorgeous, with my favorite being the giant seahorse at the end of the sea level.
The patterns for some of these end guardianswere fairly simple to figure out, while others, the complete opposite.
I about gave birth to a litter of kittensfighting this magnet boss.
Good god, man! Until I got his attacks down, he was easilythe most frustrating one of the game.
And that’s a trend that I seemed to noticein this homebrew title.
While I found some stages to be fairly challenging, others were an absolute breeze, with me sometimes finishing them on my very first attempt.
Some levels, like the low-gravity asteroidone, were loaded with one-hit-kills, while other stages such as the train, allowed foryou to take routes that would bypass a good number of obstacles that would otherwise impedeyour path to the end.
Trophy also affords you with a total of fourlives whenever you begin or continue, and is extremely generous with checkpoints, makingsome of the stages a tad too easy in my opinion.
While I can appreciate not wanting to makethe game ridiculously difficult, I feel that this was an area that should’ve shamelesslyaped Mega Man a bit more.
Basically every time you scroll the screenas shown here, you create a new checkpoint to restart after death.
And speaking of scrolling the screen, it sometimesdrove me nuts how easily it could move when jumping at the top, resulting in enemies respawningon your descent.
And then there were times when the screenwouldn’t scroll properly at all, causing me to get stuck and then die.
Hopefully that’s just a kink that can beworked out.
I was also able to take advantage of somelevels, where I could jump to the top, off-screen, to take shortcuts, where there had in justthe previous area before, been ceilings or walls.
Despite some of these quirks, the level designfor the most part is very well done, and the icing on the cake comes in the form of hiddenareas where Trophy can locate items to augment his strengths.
Finding hearts stowed away in certain stagesincreases our robot-protagonist’s life meter, allowing for more damage to be absorbed beforesending Trophy to the junkyard.
There is also a weapon “upgrade” whichI have dubbed as ‘Fool’s Gold’ cuz, it’s really not an upgrade at all.
By locating this item, Trophy ditches hisblue cosmetics in favor of a gold, C-3PO look, increasing the size of the projectiles firedfrom his hand.
The problem with this though, is that notonly do these projectiles deal the same amount of damage as the default blue ones, they alsofire at a decreased rate, allowing for only two shots at a time versus Blue Trophy’sthree.
I reached out to the development team andwas assured that gold Trophy should also fire three shots at a time, while confirming thatyes, the damage dished out is the same as the default weapon, with the advantage beingthe larger size of projectiles.
Sounds like this is something that will betweaked before the final product is released.
I was also told that a second special weaponis planned on making it into the final cut as well, which is great news, as I feel thelack of special weapons is one of Trophy’s most glaring faults.
I’ll be honest here, when I first playedTrophy, it felt like a game trying way too hard to be Mega Man, minus the quintessentialelements that make the Blue Bomber series so appealing.
But the more that I played it, and the morethat I learned the stages and just got plain better, I found myself having a lot of fun, and was eager to jump right back into Trophy.
Damn if the game didn’t grow on me.
Even the music, which is obviously a nod toMega Man as well, I found to be a bit ho-hum at first, but soon found myself humming thesongs long after I had finished playing.
There’s some really catchy stuff in here.
Trophy isn’t too long of a game, with onlyone final stage succeeding the initial eight, and also offers a password feature, allowingyou to pick right up from where you left off.
There are many tropes borrowed from Mega Manthat this game really excels at, such as item drops from enemies, like 1ups, and responsivecontrols.
I mean, they are tight! Trophy can’t crouch either.
Didn’t these robot building mastermindsever think to give these buckets of bolts bendable appendages? The main thing that I feel is missing is thelack of unique secondary weapons, and maybe the fact that the end bosses don’t havean energy meter.
Some of these take a long time and numerousshots to kill, so it would be nice to know exactly how much pain you’re inflictingonto these gargantuan automatons.
But meh, I’m probably just being a littlenit-picky about that one.
Comparing Trophy to a triple-A title fromyesteryear would probably be a bit unfair, considering that the majority had a professionaldevelopment team to conceive such games; but as an indie one practically constructed bya one-man-gang, I’d hafta say that this game is really impressive! I’d be damn proud of it had I released anythingeven remotely close.
It’s a quality platformer, no doubt, withattractive visuals and really smooth animation.
I mean, check out Trophy’s running sprite.
That’s a thing of beauty.
While I don’t think it could ever fill MegaMan’s shoes – and let’s face it, that would be a herculean task in its own right– Trophy stands tall as a homebrew game, and if you’re a fan, you owe it to yourselfto play this one.